New Mexico United was able to overcome being down a man while protecting their lead to secure 3 points on the road
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 into 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
Chris Walker: New Mexico United is getting pretty good at securing points at these Home Openers. Of course, this is partly a jest because we’re on the winning side of that remark, unlike other USL Championship sides. But 7 out of 12 possible points isn’t bad when you think back to the results of the RGV match. Head Coach Troy Lesesne says they’ve had 3-4 good matches, feeling hard-pressed over the El Paso match, but he feels they are close to knowing the product they have on the pitch. In the past, I’ve asked Lesesne if his 10-match sample rating is still applicable and after the match Friday night he said that he thinks he’ll be able to evaluate the team after 6-7 matches. Looking back to RGV until now what do you think about this?
Josh Kaskinen: 6-7 matches seems like it will be a decent sample size with this group. We’ve seen them come out completely flat (RGV), we’ve seen them let leads slip late (ELP), we’ve seen them dominate (AUS) and now we’ve seen them hang on to win despite adversity (COS). The more often they can put together a team sheet that leads to the desired result, the more likely it can be said that we know exactly what kind of side we have this season. Let’s see what the next few weeks bring and revisit this after the San Antonio match in mid-June.
CW: The starting XI finally changed and reflected much of the last 45 minutes from the Austin Bold match. How did this lineup perform in your opinion?
JK: I thought they performed well. I like seeing Sandoval come in as a sub, and he was productive as we saw with the feed to Bruce in the dying moments of the match. That gave Brian Brown a chance to show his mettle as a starter. I’m still not certain as to who should be the starter between Rivas and Chelo, as they both bring their certain traits to the pitch. Finding the best way to implement those two guys will be key for the coaching staff.
CW: You may not have realized this, I didn’t on the first watch, but Sergio Rivas was not having a good game. Yes, he scored off a second ball, but according to Lesesne he was “not finding his rhythm” and he was concerned about keeping the standard level high. He was the lone goal scorer. Did this substitution concern you? Do you think Rivas could have improved the moment through time?
JK: You’re right, I definitely didn’t notice it. Looking at his stat line, beside the goal, he had 83% pass rate (60% in the opponents’ half), won 3/8 duels and was 2/5 on successful crosses. It’s certainly possible that he could’ve improved had he stayed in, but he did the job in getting the early goal, and if the rest wasn’t clicking for him, and Coach saw something that maybe the fans didn’t pick up on, subbing him out was likely the right call.
CW: Speaking of Rivas and Amando Moreno, each gent has 2 goals for United. What did you think of Moreno’s goal coming just after the half? Brian Brown received the throw-in ball and found Moreno in a dangerous place. That two weeks in a row that this group could generate a goal. Is this the beginning of Brown’s run with us?
JK: I think it is. It was a great goal. Brown did well in collecting the throw-in, and though he didn’t have a ton of space to work with as the Switchbacks defenders closed in, he was able to be productive with his touches. Just a heads-up play by Moreno, seeing the play develop and immediately crashing the net, staying onside and putting himself in a great position to receive the pass from Brown and beat Andrew Pannenberg. Well done.
CW: We’re not fully out the clear. We have to talk about a very talented Switchbacks side out the gates. Hadji Barry, Michee Ngalina, Yaya Toure, and Lamar Batista playing an involved role in this match. Their pace was a threat to United all match, especially since United likes to build out of the back.
JK: They look to be an improved squad this year, that’s for sure. I do feel like I had a similar thought about them, (at least on paper) a season ago and that didn’t end up panning out for them, so we will see how they develop under Head Coach Brendan Burke. With a 1-2-0 record thus far, they have two losses to quality sides in New Mexico and San Antonio, while they demolished Kansas City by a score of 4-0. New Mexico United will face them three more times this season, and they’d be foolish to assume a victory before any of those matches.
JK: What was your impression on the new downtown stadium? Better than the old Weidner? How was the atmosphere and the pre-game?
CW: It was an upgraded version of the old stadium with a few new features like a club cafe-style bar. The seats were actual seats and not bleachers. They spent some money on the coconut and cork turf. Better than the old Weidner. The atmosphere reminded me that of a professional soccer match. There were 5,600 fans in attendance and that usually isn’t the case.
JK: Discipline turned out to be a factor in the match, as United was booked a total of 5 times, including twice for Andrew Tinari, causing them to finish the final 30+ minutes of the game down a man. Do you feel the cards were deserved and will discipline be a problem for this group going forward?
CW: There were definitely some deserved cards throughout the night. Tinari definitely took the match to another level. It was an interesting plot twist being up a goal. We’ve been known to concede some fouls. I don’t think we’re going to be in bad shape with the depth we have.
JK: This match featured, in my mind, two genuine instances of setbacks for New Mexico United. The first was going down early on the Hadji Barry goal in the second minute, and the second was the red card to Tinari and finishing the match with 10 men. The team showed plenty of resiliency in first coming back to equalize and take the lead and then hanging on a man down for the win. Will this kind of gutsy performance continue if this team faces similar situations, or will they concede the late goals as they did in El Paso? Was this match a litmus test for the squad, or is the jury still out?
CW: The jury is still out. We do want to be in these situations against a stronger side in our division. It helped to see United battle it out. They usually close out in their defending half and this case, they managed to secure the win with the USL Championship Goal of the Week scored by Daniel Bruce.
JK: I’ll leave you with a final thought that isn’t necessarily a question, but a story or personal experience. I had the opportunity last Saturday to head down to Lansing, Michigan to catch the opening match of Lansing Common FC in the Midwest Premier League. It was my first match attending in person since the Yellow and Gold scrimmage back in February 2020, right before the pandemic restrictions, and my first match that counted since the home game against Phoenix in September 2019. I was impressed with what I saw with Lansing, despite dropping the match 2-3 to West Michigan Bearings. It felt great to be at a match again, and it felt almost normal. Looking forward to much of the same. Cheers to summertime, my friend!