New Mexico United come together on the pitch against derby rival El Paso Locomotive FC while Harry Swartz was creating match day magic
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
CW: Heading into this match, the narrative from the team as stated in the mid-week presser is that the team is more focused on building team chemistry than gaining 3 points. This is important early on in the season. I wondered how the team play would be on the pitch and for the night, they seemed to play well together with minimal mistakes until the end. What do you think they had to do mentally to prepare and execute the plan?
JK: That’s such a great outlook at this point in the season. It can be easy to get bogged down on the standings, especially when you see a team like the Toros surprisingly at the top after two impressive wins. But he’s right, the chemistry has to come first, and once it does, the wins will follow. That being said, you can’t continue to rest on that mindset without getting in the win column for too many more weeks.
CW: The lineup was the same as last week, except Daniel Bruce was in for Josh Suggs and Sergio Rivas was in for Micheal Azira. What do you think Coach Lesesne saw in Rivas’ and Azira’s performance last week? and how could you see their impact within this Starting XI?
JK: I’m not sure that he saw anything in particular one way or the other from those guys against RGV. The offense couldn’t produce a goal in that match, however, the possession and passing numbers indicated that the midfield had a solid enough night. I think as we eluded to last week, there’s going to be quite a bit of fluctuation in the midfield as Lesesne finds out what works and what doesn’t. He may find that certain guys fit at certain positions, or with particular teammates, or coming in as subs. There’s lots of room for maneuverability, and it’s a puzzle that could change week in and week out all season long.
CW: Let’s drill down into the lineup by thirds since I’ve addressed new changes to the lineup.
Austin Yearwood, Kalen Ryden, and Sam Hamilton each had a stellar game. If it wasn’t Yearwood’s last-second stops, then it was Ryden’s goal-stopping clearance. Hamilton also played lights-out defense. Do you see any other defender breaking into that position? If so, who and why?
JK: I have been liking what those three have been doing through two games. You could plug Schmidt in to give Ryden a break, or see what Tetteh can do. I’m also wondering if we’ll ever see a four-man backline soon. All told, conceding a single goal a game isn’t a reason to panic. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
CW: Harry Swartz, Chelo Martinez, and Juan Guzman. Juan continued to find his form from the inaugural season making the right passes at times. I thought Chelo and Swartz also played complete matches. Though, I will say that substituting Chelo off was a mistake. What do I mean? He’s the middle third distributor. I will harp on the fact that Coach Lesesne’s vision as he stated himself was to have Chelo spray in passes into the box. I think we needed him in a bit longer later into the match. But we got to see Swartz in longer so it wasn’t a total bust. What’s it going to take for players to keep awareness on the left-wing? I see that it doesn’t just happen to Suggs. Any input on this corps’ performance?
JK: I think I’ll lump these guys into my next answer with the forwards because I think they’ll go hand-in-hand this season. I have lots of confidence in this group of attacking midfielders, and I think they’ll find their footing soon enough.
CW: Devon Sandoval and Amando Moreno up top. Sandoval had a game that was better than last week. Moreno had some quality touches, but I don’t think he’s fully found his game yet. How much does he miss Chris Wehan? Who will be his provider this season based upon these 90 minutes?
JK: I agree with you about Moreno. Glimpses that his game will come, but we haven’t seen it yet. Sandoval I think will rely on balls in from the likes of Chelo and Swartz, which we did start to see materialize this past weekend. I do think that within the next several matches, those two will find paydirt, but I don’t know that we will have only one or two high-scoring players this season, as we did with Frater and Moar in 2019, and with Wehan last season. I think United will end up having a larger variety of guys with 4-8 goals this season. I expect Swartz, Ilic, Brown, Chelo, and Rivas to contribute, with Moreno ultimately being the club leader in goals scored by the time the season is over.
CW: Nearing an almost complete match everyone was on pins and needles in the stadium. I was with the supporters as was Peter Trevisani. We kept saying that a second goal was needed. Then all of a sudden that undeniably beautiful equalizer happened. I have since re-watched the goal. Where was the assignment missed? What should have happened there?
JK: Watching from home, I could almost feel it coming as well. I thought that when Ilic came on, he did a good job in killing the Locos forward motion and clearing balls to waste time, but after the scrum in midfield, you could sense that the full six minutes of stoppage time was going to be dangerous for United. As for the equalizer, it truly was a beautiful goal, and I had to hit the rewind button several times to try to come up with an answer to your question. Luna controls the ball on the left-wing, Swartz is guarding him well. When he hits the brakes, Sandoval picks him up, and Luna has just enough time to deliver a beautiful ball to Gomez. Suggs is marking Gomez, Yearwood is on Carrijo, Ryden on Apodaca. Gomez collects the pass from Luna, Yearwood turns to mark him, Ryden slips down to try to cover Carrijo, only a half a step late. To me, it was less of a lapse on United’s end and more flawless execution on the part of El Paso. Credit where credit is due.
JK: What were your thoughts on the offense in this second match? Finding the first goal of the season was huge of course, and I thought that that connection between Swartz and Sandoval has the potential to be strong all season long. Did anyone else stand out to you?
CW: United had a couple of chances in this match and managed to score on one of them. They had a small number of shots. They struggled to advance the ball through the middle, which has to be improved going forward. The goal scored by Sandoval was astonishing because Swartz had been creating chances all match. The backline and Tambakis impressed as we got later in the match when Locomotive went on a run.
JK: The departure of Chris Wehan has left a gap not only on offense but on set-pieces as well. So far, it appears that Chelo will be the guy to fill that role. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from him so far on these restarts, placing balls in key spots to generate chances.
CW: Chris Wehan had many facets if we’re being honest here. One man cannot replace him, but two can certainly highlight his resume with United. Chelo has shown he’s more than just a hype man. He shoots those “baseline threes” (reference to likening a long-range shot like that to set piece corners) putting the ball in some dangerous places, but he’s shown that he’ll just go ahead and keep one to himself. Swartz sounds a lot like Wehan when you consider his flight up the pitch. Sandoval and Moreno will thrive on a guy like him feeding them plated balls. He might even score a few himself.
JK: We gotta talk about the rivalry. These teams leave it all out there and there’s no love lost. The Las Cruces native Suggs seems to find himself in the thick of these moments, and the yellow card late in the game was warranted for his role in starting the fracas in my opinion. But man, oh man, Yuma just keeps the fun going. I did like the post-game handshake between Lesesne and Lowry. Tempers were running high between both benches following the late equalizer, but you could see the mutual admiration those two great soccer minds have for each other. What were your thoughts on how this Derby played out and what do you expect to see when these two clubs meet again this year?
CW: You knew something was coming. This is the equivalent of wrestlers coming from the locker room in an old WWE pay-per-view. Suggs played the heel here and added something to the storyline. In terms of performance, United did just enough, but we knew it was the bare minimum (counting flare) and Locomotive is always highlighting that point by doing just a bit more and coming up short. For the moment, they looked to do just about the same in terms of what made the team sheet. This derby will grow into something fans on both sides will talk about. I listened to both Coaches talk about their sides performance on tape and I will saw that Lesesne is “thrilled” as he put it and Lowry thinks it’ll do for not having played any games. Their standards are not even with each other. One side is going to vault themselves higher than the other during their season and it’ll be the derby matches that will help us see who is the better team. July 3rd is the next installment of the Derby Del Camino Real so let’s see what United and Locomotive do until then.