Last night New Mexico United (6-1-7) and the visiting OKC Energy FC (5-4-5) played to a 1-1 draw in front of 13,574 on Pride Night. While the result didn’t go according to plan, United was able to extend their unbeaten streak to eight matches across all competitions.
Taking the pitch under rainbow flags and multicolored smoke, United looked more than ready for the task at hand. Their play in the first half showed fresh legs and a drive to take control. For much of the first half United was able to exert their influence over OKC and there was a sense that it was only a matter of time before they opened the scoring.
Early on, Energy keeper Cody Laurendi was able to fend off multiple attempts by United. OKC tried putting in a very high press against United, but United kept finding ways to break it. Primarily through the use of long passes to get up the pitch, United could then play within its style. The fluid movement we’ve seen paid off as the half drew to a close. A series of corner kicks in the favor of United resulted in Devon Sandoval finding the back of the net for the fourth time this year.
Chris Wehan expertly delivered a corner towards the back post where only Justin Schmidt could get to it. With a leaping header, Schmidt headed the ball back towards the center of the box and on instinct Sandoval got a touch to direct the ball into the back of the net.
“I’m always very proud of the club when they take the initiative and get the first goal,” said Coach Troy Lesesne. “We really limited them a lot in what they are good at.”
United has been plagued by second-half performance issues during multiple matches this season. In recent weeks, the performances had been better, but tonight OKC came out of the break playing as though they were the club with the lead.
“We just weren’t able to get into a rhythm and get into our sets,” stated Lesesne.
The attack for OKC was mostly absent in the first half. That changed dramatically when Deshorn Brown and Omar Gordon started finding space to work. As their confidence grew, Brown’s speed was on display, often out-pacing the United defense. After several attempts on goal, OKC would finally find their moment. Gordon would flick forward a throw-in to Brown, who found himself unmarked. Brown was able to make an unimpeded run to the near post and powered home a shot from a tight angle to draw the score level.
After the match, both Lesesne and the players expressed disappointment in the outcome. They are all acutely aware that closing out matches hasn’t been the club’s strong point. “It’s something we want to address. I think if we get the second goal and its game over,” said Lesesne.
Looking at some of the stats from the match, it would be hard to say that United wouldn’t have come away with a win. They dominated most of the major stat categories.
– 65% possession
– 570 passes
– 16 shots, 6 on target
– 24 clearances
United have been impressive again in their latest unbeaten run. This one has been accomplished while playing the majority of the matches on the road. Over the streak, United have gone to the top of the table and advanced to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
OKC is a club that has struggled on the road this year, but they didn’t play like it. There’s no club in the USL that can be overlooked at any time. United will learn from this match and take those lessons forward with them. Despite the concession in the second half, the defensive effort shown is something that United can build upon.
Player of the Match
Daniel Bruce – No, he didn’t score. No, he didn’t get an assist. But his play tonight was incredible. He made a lot of great plays throughout his time on the pitch, and he had another good look at goal. It’s only a matter of time.
The announced attendance at tonight’s match was 13,574. This marks the second highest attendance total for United on the season.
United will play at Isotopes Park again on Saturday, June 8. This time they will play host to Sacramento Republic FC with kick off scheduled for 7:30 p.m.