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THE DAISY CUTTER: New Mexico United Off To A Slow Start At RGVFC

Rio Grande Valley FC defeats New Mexico United 1-0 at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas.

Welcome to The Daisy Cutter, a new weekly column from Seek & Strike Collective. This column will take the form of a written conversation between Chris Walker and Josh Kaskinen. Chris and Josh will be discussing any burning thoughts, observations, and questions that pop in their heads during New Mexico United matches from the previous week. In soccer, a daisy cutter is a shot that stays low to the ground. It may seem harmless, but it’s hard-hitting, down earth, and has the potential to create.

By Chris Walker and Josh Kaskinen

Photo Credit: DosPhoto

Josh Kaskinen: Watching the match from home, I immediately noticed how odd the broadcast sounded with only the sound of the commentators’ voices. It seems strange to say, but I was almost yearning for the early pandemic sounds of empty stadiums and players and coaches barking orders on the pitch. The ESPN + video quality was pretty solid, and the commentators seemed knowledgeable enough, but it still felt bizarre. I also forgot to turn off notifications on Fotmob, so my phone told me about the Toros goal before I saw it go in. What did you think of the broadcast?

Chris Walker: I’ll preface this with the fact that I got my second dose of the vaccine the day before. So at the time, I was so focused on watching the action on the screen that I didn’t even think about the commentators. But their puns managed to take me out of the haze when they made an Elvis reference when RGV’s Elvis Amoh scored. They couldn’t help themselves and I’ll admit it was funny.

JK: Living in Michigan now and contending with a two-hour time difference, I didn’t get a chance to catch much of the pre-season action. Pre-season and a match that counts are two entirely different beasts, but I was curious what you thought this team looked like in comparison to what you saw in pre-season?

CW: To be honest, United looked the same. That same sort of “new team who’s this?” vibe. I guess you could take that one of a couple of ways. First, it’s the first match of the season and we didn’t bring forth any momentum. Second, this is a brand new team and they are shifting shape into more of a contender this season.

JK: Several times in the first half, the Toros had good attacking movement, and I thought New Mexico’s backline did a nice job in collapsing to contain their attack, except for a few deflections and poor passes that gave us some trouble. Once those attacks were contained, a long ball was played out to our attacking players to collect. Do you think United has the potential to be strong in the counter-attack going forward this season?

CW: Yes, but the key to that is winning the ball in the middle third. United should take some of the pressure off of their backline and goalkeeper. How crisp can a counter be if you have the opposition that deep? They also have to consider the pace of the opposition as well. United has to win that foot race to the ball.

JK: It’s safe to say that soccer in the United States is back in full swing. I’ve been taking in quite a bit of National Independent Soccer Association with the Legends Cup and Detroit City’s first spring season match (They scored in stoppage time during halftime of the United match to beat Maryland Bobcats). I also got a chance to check out Phoenix Rising vs. San Diego Loyal on Friday night and FC Tulsa vs. OKC Energy last weekend. I know you saw the special season of University of New Mexico Lobos Women’s Soccer come to an end earlier in the weekend. What else have you gotten to watch recently?

CW: You know, I have been watching old NM United footy to get ready for the season. I have also tuned in to the Major League Soccer and NISA some as well.

(Photo Courtesy of NM United)

CW: Let’s talk about the Starting XI we saw last night. It was very much the collection of players we saw consistently throughout the preseason. I kind of expected a more explosive showing from this group. It was the 3-5-2, but it seemed to lack identity. Where were United restricted? Talk about the performance of the lines.

  • Moreno, Sandoval
  • Suggs, Chelo, Swartz
  • Guzman, Azira
  • Yearwood, Ryden, Hamilton

JK: To me, the biggest thing with the starting lineup that we saw on Saturday is the depth in the midfield. With the five midfield players that started and Rivas, Ilic, and Bruce coming in off the bench, Andrew Tinari wasn’t even listed as a sub. There’s a lot of depth there, but will everyone get the playing time that they are looking for? Who will mesh well with each other? Who is the odd man out? It’s a good problem for Head Coach Troy Lesesne to have, but it will be interesting to see how his team sheets and formations take shape in the coming weeks.

CW: Huge contrast between the Austin Bold season opening match last season and this one right here. Some different personnel on the pitch. Why did that group click better than this one?

JK: It’s hard to say. I think that both squads had a healthy mix of returning players and new guys. I remember last year watching Kalen Ryden finding his own with a new team. This year, are you missing the playmaking of a guy like Chris Wehan? Were there just too many new faces? Maybe the contrast wasn’t as big as we think. That’s back-to-back years of week one matchups on the road in Texas in which United couldn’t find the back of the net and only conceded a single goal. They figured it out last year and I expect they will this season as well despite the early hiccup.

CW: At one point in the match, much later on with all substitutes used we had primarily an array of attacking pieces on the pitch. The staggered substitutions were used to stimulate the play on the pitch. It became clear that we had thrown the pasta at the wall and nothing was sticking. What did you think about the substitutions made, the incoming player, but also considering the outgoing player?

JK: I was fine with the substitutions that were made. Guys like Rivas, Ilic, and Brown can certainly make an impact off the bench when they aren’t listed in the starting lineup. Daniel Bruce has been a guy who has shown a tremendous amount of versatility in the roles that he plays, be it in that super-sub attacking role, midfield, or even defensively. That versatility could be key in the way that Coach Lesesne uses his players this season. I think with this many new faces on the roster, there is going to be a decent amount of pasta-throwing early on.

CW: Looking at other teams in the west, it is somewhat easy to characterize the level of football they are playing to pinpoint “the standard” of the respective coach. This is still something United is after. We don’t have the Open Cup or Covid Restrictions this season, what do you think it’s going to take for us to start to see Troy Lesesne football? Also what exactly is that?

JK: I’m certainly no tactician or soccer coach, but to me Troy Lesesne football is resourceful. It takes what is available and deploys it smartly to create winning football. As we saw on Saturday, a win won’t come every time, but good coaches build on those setbacks to take two steps forward. I know there’s disappointment with no U.S. Open Cup this season, but maybe there’s a silver lining. In the debut season, the deep run in the Open Cup, while magical, perhaps took some juice out of the tank for United’s league season. Last season was the Road Warriors. Assuming this season stays as normal as possible, it presents that opportunity for United to see what they are made of, without any excuses.

CW: Who was your Man of the Match? Initially, it’s Alex Tambakis for me. I am going to do a second watch today (Sunday) and come back to this to see if anyone else sticks out to me.

JK: Tambakis had three saves on the evening and all three were great. The lone goal he conceded came after a goofy bounce off a deflection and there was nothing he could have done any better, so I will agree with you on that one. Outside of the keeper, we saw a nice shot from Chelo early on and a few nice passes from Moreno, but for me, it had to be Guzman. I mean, just look at this map of passes from him.

Passing Distribution: Juan Pablo Guzman (Courtesy of USL Championship)

That kind of distribution cannot be understated as this team looks to find its footing moving forward. Guzman had 76 passes on the night and 92.1% passing accuracy. I know possession doesn’t mean anything without chances, but if this team can control the play, the chances will come.

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