New Mexico United continue to progress week-to-week by taking the time to invest in team chemistry first and now the points are starting to add up
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.
New Mexico United played its first home match in 575 days at The Lab in front of 8,647 fans in attendance. Slated as the highest attendance of a USL Championship match this season, United put all of their match traditions in motion. United won its first home opener ever with the 3-1 victory over Austin Bold.
By Chris Walker and Josh Kaskinen
Chris Walker: In the match preview for Austin Bold, I tinkered with the idea that Head Coach Troy Lesesne could introduce a new lineup that needed to feel the warmth of The Lab or stick with the starting XI that he’s used the last 2 matches. I did expect the latter to occur with a few minor tweaks. How did you like the addition of Sergio Rivas to the fold? It seems like we’re getting close to some concrete shift in the middle third with Andrew Tinari and Juan Pablo Guzman paired up. What did you think about the first group?
Josh Kaskinen: I liked the starting lineup. It had a good mix of usual suspects and newcomers, without being too drastically different from what we’d seen in the first two matches. Lesesne was able to get some of both this year’s new signings as well as guys from last season who never got to play in front of a home crowd the chance to do so, while still putting forth a team sheet that was able to get the three points. Rivas’ homecoming to the 505, Kalen Ryden’s first time at The Lab in Black and Yellow, and the same for Tinari, Harry Swartz, Amando Moreno, and Alex Tambakis. Even Micheal Azira, Brian Brown, and Chelo Martinez were able to experience it off the bench. Good feelings aside, the lineup tinkering seems to be more and more minuscule, so the coaching staff must be liking what it is seeing.
CW: Coach Lesesne spoke about the talent he has in the attacking positions to the point he was making about showing the opponent different looks. One of them, in addition to Rivas, was Brown substituting in for Devon Sandoval in the 59’ minute. Were you left wondering about that move with the score being drawn 1-1 after 46’ minutes?
JK: To be honest I was kind of surprised not to see Brown in the starting eleven, but I think he fits the role he came in on quite nicely. We know that Brown has a proven goal-scoring record in the Championship based on his exploits in Reno. We’ve also seen plenty of other clubs use a bona fide scorer in a super sub role, coming in with fresh legs in the final third of the game. While it’s impossible to deny Sandoval’s presence as a goal-scorer, I wouldn’t be shocked to see his number get called frequently as subs begin to come in to games around the hour to 75 minute mark.
CW: Moreno finally opens his account with a similar goal as Rivas’, a header off the cross. Moreno has been looking for these balls through the previous 2 matches. What did you like about his performance through this match?
JK: I thought Moreno played quite well. He was in good position, made smart passes, and seemed to really let the game come to him. His presence of mind to stay onside for that goal as he waited for the cross in from Josh Suggs must’ve taken some patience. I do think we will start to see him continue to make more of an impact in the coming weeks.
CW: In the presser, I asked Coach Lesesne about the decision to go into a back 4 when Justin Schmidt entered. He corrected me and stated it was 5 in the back. He brought Schmidt in to help with the crosses Bold was sending in the box. United struggles to dominate in the aerial duel game. What’s your reaction to Lesesne keeping the El Paso match in mind and rectifying the situation in this match to secure the lead and ultimately put the match away?
JK: That’s what a smart coach does. Learn from previous experiences and adapt. Having Schmidt in as a fresh body to take care of those crosses once NMU had acquired the two goal lead was definitely the right call to make sure that nothing goofy would happen to jeopardize earning three points at home. The defense did the job it needed to do in those closing minutes.
JK: I want to hear it from someone who was there. Tell me about the atmosphere at The Lab. I’m 2000 miles away and I had some serious FOMO while watching the broadcast. What were the emotions? How did it feel?
CW: It was 2019 as a whole vibe. Literally, take the best moments of the inaugural season and turn it into a block party. United Front Office worked hard to coordinate marquee guests. Cheval Shepherd sang the National Anthem, University of New Mexico Lobos Women’s Soccer along with Head Coach Heather Dyche were in attendance. Dyche delivered the game ball. They acknowledged the essential workers and dedicated the Opening Night Flag to them. Hundreds of Dion’s United pizza boxes flowed throughout the stadium, as well as, the many smells from concessions. Everyone had more than a good time. The emotions were certainly all-at-once and it came and went so fast. Truthfully, I hope it slows down a bit so it can be cherished a bit more.
JK: The more I watch Swartz the more I’m convinced he’s the real deal. He’s involved on offense and makes things happen. Do you have any insights on Swartz and have any of the other new guys stood out to you yet?
CW: Swartz has a pair of assists right now and I only see that number increase as the season goes on. Don’t forget he can score too. No other new players have really made a splash through 3 matches. I’m still waiting for Martinez to make his mark.
JK: We had talked about the build up of play and the fluidity with the ball in the first two weeks. New Mexico didn’t seem to have much of it until the home opener. On Saturday, the long ball was working, the passing was still on point, and plenty of offense was generated. Was there anything from Saturday that you think still isn’t where it needs to be offensively? What can they take from Saturday and build on going forward?
CW: The biggest thing to take away is consistency. United have been known to play up to an opponent and then next match drop off. If they can bring the same intensity from that match Saturday into Friday’s match, then they will have the best chance at winning.They looked good on Saturday for the most part. They turned the ball over in some dangerous spaces, which led to opportunities for Bold FC that weren’t converted.
JK: Next up is Colorado Springs. Are you making the trip? If so, what are you most looking forward to?
CW: Yes, I am making the trip up to Colorado Springs. I am looking forward to checking out the new stadium! I’m also looking forward to hanging out with The Curse Supporters heading up. Not to mention, connecting with Matt Pollard from Holding The High Line Podcast.