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UNDER THE SOMBRERO: New Mexico United Hosts San Antonio FC

It is time for an old west showdown under the hot New Mexican sun as old friend San Antonio FC heads to Albuquerque for a playoff rematch

By Sombrero Man | Credit: DosPhoto

Alex Tambakis collects the ball on a shot attempt by Austin Bold.

The last time these two clubs faced off was on a crisp October night as United ended San Antonio’s 2020 campaign with a 1-0 victory in the western conference quarter-finals at Toyota Field. That night Chris Wehan played hero as in the 101st minute he found the back of the net to put United up for good. The last meeting between the two clubs was memorable for many reasons. Some acrobatic saves by goalkeeper Cody Mizell kept San Antonio scoreless. Great lockdown defense by Kalen Ryden and the United backline helped in the effort. Devon Sandoval got a compliment on his hair but in the end, the season continued. The fire between these clubs remains intact even while the lineups may be different.

Kalen Ryden tries to win possession of the ball.

    In their last match, San Antonio headed up to Sin City to take on the Las Vegas Lights at Cashman Field on Saturday. San Antonio went up 1-0 early via a corner kick from Emil Cuello that fell perfectly to an awaiting Joaquin Varela for the 9th-minute goal. This continues a stretch of early San Antonio goals dating back to the 2020 season. As the match progressed Las Vegas became the aggressors despite being down 1-0. The Lights made goalkeeper Matthew Cardone work hard and make some great saves. In the 82nd minute, Ollie Wright committed a foul in the box resulting in a Penalty kick in front of the Electric Company. Cal Jennings rather calmly snuck it past Cardone to tie up the score which split the point between the two clubs.

The last match for New Mexico was a frustrating one as the club accounted for zero shots on goal resulting in a 0-0 draw at the Lab on Saturday night. The closest chance was a Ryden header that sailed just wide of the net. This makes a stretch of two straight matches at Isotopes Park in which United has failed to find the back of the net. This drought is the first of its kind in the club’s short history of playing at Isotopes Park.

Devon Sandoval getting into position as Ilija Ilic and an Austin Bold player look on.

Players to watch for San Antonio are Goalkeeper Cardone, Defender Sam Gleadle, and midfielder Cuello. Cardone is familiar with the vibrant atmosphere at the Lab as the last time he visited he allowed three goals in a 3-0 Cinco de Mayo win for United. Cardone got his revenge when we pitched a shutout against United that same season in a crushing 5-0 defeat at Toyota Field. Expect Cardone to be on his game especially with the thought of Wehan’s playoff goal in the back of his head. Gleadle won 71.4 % of his duels last match and 100% of his aerial duels, racking up 11 possessions gained and four interceptions. A tough challenge lays ahead for a United team that has scored once in their past three matches. Finally, Midfielder Cuello leads San Antonio in assists. Expect him to make an impact around the 18 as San Antonio looks to score quick and early as they tend to do.

Players to watch for New Mexico are Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, Midfielder Daniel Bruce, and forward Ilija Ilic. Alex Tambakis has only allowed one goal in his past three matches coming up huge for New Mexico many times and is a key reason why United was able to come away with a point against Austin Bold FC. Daniel Bruce has been streaky in a good way on the field. Last match Bruce controlled the ball well and was quick on both sides of the pitch. Finally Ilic. Ilic has come close so many times at home but has yet to convert any chances to score and had one called back on a very controversial offsides call. Expect Ilic to make a huge impact in the box this match.

Sombrero’s Spin: This score prediction is a low-scoring one as United comes away 1-0 over San Antonio ending their scoring drought at home after the last two matches. This will lead to Tambakis continuing his clean sheet streak to three.

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