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UNDER THE SOMBRERO: New Mexico United Return To The Lab, Host Austin Bold FC

New Mexico United put in work this week to create more chances they hope to finish in front of their first home crowd in 574 days

By Chris Walker | Photo: DosPhoto

Sombrero Man was kind enough to bestow his column to me this week. We have a thing here at Seek & Strike Collective, school comes first.

It’s match day in New Mexico and on the 575 day fans will file into The Lab to cheer on their side, New Mexico United.

United will be hosting Austin Bold FC. The last time these two sides played each other was March 2020 just before the USL Championship season would be delayed due to Covid. Fans’ attention will be split between the match, the traditions tied to United, and just being themselves alongside the next fan doing the same.

Let’s get into this preview and talk about the meaningful topics looming about.

United vs. The Unplayed

Bold FC are the second opponent United will face in back-to-back weeks that have yet to play a match into this 2021 season. Is this an advantage to United? Hardly not. Bold has two weeks of footage on this side fronted by Head Coach Troy Lesesne.

Lesesne commented in this week’s presser that he “tapped into sources for tips on how Bold lined up” during the preseason. Ultimately, he gave his standard answer on it, which is he’s focused on getting United ready for the match. Lesesne is aware of Bold’s standout players, but he doesn’t typically design tactics around any players, but he does acknowledge the threat they can be.

Bold FC signed some killer talent up top in Forwards: Sean Okoli (last: OCSC) Jason Johnson (last: Lou City), and Omar Gordon (last: OKC Energy) through the offseason. Johnson and Gordon have ties to the Jamaican National team.

United play more of a technical style on the pitch oftentimes building out of the back. Coach Lesesne mentioned his side would be working on “taking the ball from low positions to high positions” on the pitch.

Typically, sides that play the game more freely give United fits through the middle third. One of the setbacks to writing this Preview is no footage and new players.

United’s Choice XI

Through two matches, we’ve seen the same group: Amando Moreno, Devon Sandoval, Juan Guzman, Chelo Martinez, Harry Swartz, Austin Yearwood, Kalen Ryden, Sam Hamilton, with Alex Tambakis in goal.

The interchangeable pieces have been Josh Suggs, Micheal Azira, Daniel Bruce, Andrew Tinari and Sergio Rivas.

It’s easy to focus on the backline and goalkeeper for the number of stops they’ve made. Yearwood has 11 clearances and 5 tackles won. It would be good to see Lesesne add some rotation in the backline. I suspect fatigue set in last match and made them more reactive than proactive towards the latter end of the match.

Our focus for this match will be turned to the middle third. The fluid movement isn’t there yet and furthermore, United has to address the opposition moving the ball up through the middle as much as they have through two weeks. United has to prevent Bold FC from moving its whole side into the attacking half. Suggs looked off in the last match. It could have been coming into the game as a sub versus starting in the XI or he was just off? Swartz and Bruce on the pitch together gave United more mobility. There’s much work that has to happen in the middle third.

Sandoval looked good through the last match. Moreno hasn’t found his game just yet. Plenty of near-chances. Ilija Ilic and Brian Brown haven’t appeared to be factors yet. You have to wonder if they are acclimated to the altitude and fit 90 yet. Brown apparently missed the trip to El Paso because he had a stomach bug.

Expecting the same lineup? Or the Most New Mexican Lineup?

I’m divided. I can see Lesesne leaning on that home state pride for the push, but I can also see him starting a different lineup to experience the electricity of the Lab. I need to stop because Lesesne doesn’t typically drastically change that way. Expecting the same lineup with Brown, Tinari, and Tetteh making an appearance.

United’s Key Moments

Two scoreless first halves, two late-match goals conceded, and only 1 goal scored from very few chances generated. Lesesne said his side would be focusing on “more chance creation” this week.

We can learn something from Lesesne’s substitutions as well.

Against RGV, he added more flair to the midfield with Rivas at Half, added Ilic and Bruce at 66, added Brown at 72, and Schmidt at 87.

Against Locomotive FC, Lesesne got a score with the group he had on the pitch at 57, he added Suggs and Tinari at 65, Azira at 73, and Ilic at 84.

Let’s see what today’s match looks like at Half, at or around the following 65, 74, and 83.

This week’s predictions:

#Goals, W-L-D, First Strike

4, 3-1 United, Devon Sandoval (Alicia)

3, 2-1 United, Harry Swartz (Chris)

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