New Mexico United are choosing to focus on what they did right to earn 1 point in hopes that it will bring them 3 points
By Chris Walker | Photo: Alvarado Photo Team
Head Coach Troy Lesesne would like to focus on the positives.
His side, New Mexico United, just finished hosting Eastern Conference opponent, Hartford Athletic in a match that concluded in a 2-2 draw in front of 6,444 in attendance on Hispanic Heritage Night at The Lab.
Devon Sandoval (5 goals) evened up the score in the 55’ when he headed a cross sent deep into the goal box by his teammate Austin Yearwood. The pass was deflected initially by a Hartford defender and quite frankly may not have had the same flight without some assistance.
Sandoval spoke on his match-tying score “It did get deflected a little bit. But, still, he put the ball in a dangerous spot and I was able to get my head on it. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Lesesne would like to move on from this match because the overall vibe of the match was success marred with a little disappointment in a moment here or there. “Let’s be positive about it. Because these guys are. I’ll tell you that. And the energy from them – it’s exactly where it needs to be in the locker room.” Lesesne said.
On the night, United would find themselves up on the Eastern Conference visitors with a 1-0 lead after just twenty-six minutes into the match off a well-placed cross by Chris Wehan, chipped off the ground for Sergio Rivas (5 goals) to head into the goal.
“It was a set-piece that we’ve practiced and we wanted to execute for a while now. It was perfectly executed; the roll to (Suggs), to Juan, to Beez. And I just wanted to be in that cutback position and got fed a great ball. I never knew I had those hops, but they showed today. It was a great ball, and I got my head on it, and thankfully it rolled through,” Rivas said.
United, set on continuing their push for the postseason, had the most possession at 63 percent and that’s due partially to their 86 percent pass accuracy. These high ratings didn’t give United any more favor after Sandoval drew the score even with his goal.
Lesesne still chooses to celebrate the positive side to it all. “So that shows how clinical we were, not giving the ball away. But that has to materialize into more goals. And we all know that. We’re going to make that happen on Saturday. Again, we’re not disappointed in that.”
If anything, these numbers speak loudly to United’s lack of conversion in critical moments under their control. Lesesne’s side earned 2 corners and had 3 shot attempts (blocked, missed, saves) in 3 minutes at the 70th minute.
When these moments faded, the match was made new again when Cristian Nava entered the pitch in the 80th minute and it showed in the team’s energy as Nava’s teammates were all eager to play the ball into him. Nava made himself small on the move, snuck into dangerous spaces, and even affected the match by winning a free kick in stoppage time.
“There’s ten minutes to go and this kid comes on the best thing – what is an indication about him – is not only how he played, but how these guys never hesitated to play him the ball. That tells you what they think of him. That tells you everything that you need to know about the quality of Cristian Nava, Lesesne said.
As the moments were winding down in this match, elsewhere in the Mountain Division, El Paso Locomotive FC came back from behind to draw 3-3 with San Antonio FC and Austin Bold FC defeated Tacoma Defiance 1-0 to take a 1-point lead over United with 39 points and a game-in-hand.
United currently sits fifth on the table with 38 points and Rio Grande Valley FC sits with 37 points. Lesesne has added some urgency to Saturday’s match with RGV. The win over RGV could vault them back into the fourth position if Austin loses/draws to OKC Energy on Sunday.
Lesesne believes that his side will bounce back. No one in the United locker room is satisfied with the result. One point to make is that they did this all without Amando Moreno, who is with La Selecta for World Cup Qualifiers.
“I just told the guys, it’s not the result we wanted. We all know that. We wanted three points. With that said, the things that didn’t go right are things that are staying with you – that are disappointing – correct that on Saturday. We have to correct that on Saturday in a must-win three-point match, and I know we’ll do that. We have to change that energy and that mood of being a little disappointed tonight, and put that energy toward Saturday. And I know that our guys are going to do that,” Lesesne stated.
In other United news, Friday a piece of New Mexican history gets reintroduced. A picture of red and green chiles and what many United fans are gathering to be an ode to the New Mexico Chiles showed up on their social media accounts on Tuesday. Whether it’s a kit top or another form of sports memorabilia remains to be seen at this time.
Rio Grande Valley FC visits New Mexico United at The Lab on Saturday, October 9th at 5:00 pm.