New Mexico United (2-0-3) picked up their first road win of the season tonight against a tougher than expected Tacoma Defiance squad. The sides came into the match tonight after very different early season showings. United had shown that they could score but not close out matches, while Tacoma struggled in both aspects of the game.
Tonight, each club changed those narratives and both for the positive. Tacoma (1-3-0) came in having to prove that they could score after being held goalless in the previous two matches. It didn’t take long for the Defiance to show that they were up for the challenge after an early cross from Shandon Hopeau found Azriel Gonzalez, in the goal area, who quickly put the home side up 1-0 in only the 2nd minute. The opening goal put United into a position they hadn’t been in all season, playing from behind.
To their credit, New Mexico United were the aggressors for much of the first half. Kevaughn Frater led the attack and had several shots in the first half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Frater nearly put the score back level in the 4th, but his chip shot was cleared on the goal line by Defiance defender Modou Ndow. Despite playing on the front foot, a heavy touch from keeper Cody Mizell resulted in a free kick for the Defiance just outside the penalty area. Joel Rydstrand stepped up to take the kick, and fortunately for United, the kick went straight into the wall and was cleared from danger.
The subsequent attack from United resulted in an unusual series of events that brought the score back level. Padilla took a shot on goal from outside the box, that deflected not one, but twice and into the back of the Defiance net. The goal was ultimately credited to Ryan Williams who played the ball after it was deflected by another Tacoma defender. At the time the initial shot was taken, Williams had been offsides, but, since the ball was deflected, he was then able to play the ball without an offsides foul being called.
Coming out of the halftime break, United had a series of shots that had them inches away from another goal as Santi Moar banged one off the far post and Padilla ripped one into the side netting.
Tacoma’s Gonzalez nearly put the home side ahead in the 54th, but the goal was brilliantly saved by a leaping Mizell, who pushed the ball over the crossbar for a corner. That would be the closest that Tacoma would come to scoring again. Even without another serious threat, the Defiance attack was able to find multiple channels to get balls into the attacking third and were able to move the ball very effectively throughout the match. Both clubs played very physical attacking football and found ways to play in their own styles for the duration.
United would go ahead for good from a header off of Frater in the 77th. Moar pushed the attack all the way to the goal line before crossing the ball back into Frater at the near post, who netted his third goal of the season. Over the final thirteen minutes, the defense held the Defiance out any real goal scoring threats and showed that they could close out matches.
Man of the Match
Cody Mizell – The tremendous save by Mizell in the 54th, seemed to cause the Tacoma attack to deflate and helped propel the club for the rest of the match.
United finished the match with 22 shots, compared to 8 for Tacoma.
Two more cautions were given to United tonight, bringing the club to a league-leading 14 yellow cards. Yellow card accumulation may become an issue in the coming weeks.
Cody Mizell currently leads the league in saves with 19.
With the win, United currently sit 2nd in the Western Conference with 9 points.
New Mexico United will try to continue their unbeaten start of the season in the finale of this three-week road trip. The next match will be against Rio Grande Valley FC (0-3-1) on Saturday, April 6 at H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas.
Image Credit: Tacoma Sounders