Head Coach Troy Lesesne and New Mexico United (6-2-7) were hoping for a much better end to their brief homestand. In their first home loss of the year, United fell to Sacramento Republic FC (6-5-2) by a score of 3-0.
Lesesne’s starting eleven for the night featured seven changes from Wednesday’s match, with many of the regulars set for a night off. Unfortunately for United, the changes didn’t work. For the entire first half, United looked disjointed and all but gave up control of the midfield. The end result was one of the worst halves of the season for United, managing only 43% and a single shot.
To make matters worse, Justin Schmidt fouled Cameron Iwasa in the 31st minute, giving Sacramento a penalty. Iwasa, Sacramento’s leading scorer, would convert to put the visitors up 1-0.
Looking to give his club a spark, Lesesne made two half time changes, bringing in Santi Moar and Juan Guzman. The difference in performance was night and day. United became the aggressor, and within minutes they were asking questions of the Sacramento defense. Kenny Akamatsu would take the best shot of the night for United in the 51st, but it would go off the woodwork, missing by a matter of inches.
United would dominate possession in the second half but couldn’t find a rhythm. Throughout the second half, Sacramento players would go down and waste time, disrupting any flow that United tried to maintain. The introduction of Guzman and Moar gave United some much-needed pace and control of the midfield.
Despite the reinvigorated attack from United, Sacramento would bend the net two more times against the run of play. After a foul in the 77th, Matthew Mahoney would head home Ray Saari’s cross for a 2-0 lead. Iwasa would strike again in the 90th to put the final touch on the match.
United couldn’t find any answers on the night despite their best efforts. This match actually raises some questions about the depth of the club. United already carry one of the smallest rosters in the league with 23 players on contract, and many of them play every week. While there has been some rotation during the weeks leading up last night, some of the players that aren’t getting regular time looked rusty and out of sync with the first team. Troy has said that they weren’t going to be making any changes, but perhaps the club should look to add a couple more bodies. Even if the club adds to the roster, it will be hard to get them playing time, and we could see the same result.
Before this match, United had never trailed at the end of the first half. They responded well offensively, but the defense fell flat throughout the first half and a few times in the second. Lesesne’s club needs to figure out their defensive woes if they are to have continued success.
Whatever changes are made, it will always come down to the players performing and coaches preparing them for the matches.
Player of the Match
Kenny Akamatsu – getting another start in league play benefited Kenny more than any other player last night. He was able to showcase his footwork and came mere inches from putting United level in the second half. This could be a jumping off point for Kenny, and he has a lot of positive things to take away from the match.
United will look to rebound from the tough set of matches this week as they travel to Colorado next. It will be no small task for the club as they face off against the Colorado Rapids in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The club has a chance to upend U.S. international legend Tim Howard and his club and advance to the fifth round. Colorado Rapids have struggled this year and will have their hands full with United.