New Mexico United (10-9-12) needed three points to help their playoff chances but walked away from a tough match against Rio Grande Valley FC (9-15-8) with only one. After the final whistle blew, the player’s frustration was visible as they collapsed on the pitch, heads in their hands.
That image encapsulated just how everyone in the park felt; both clubs and the supporters.
The question continues to be asked, is New Mexico United a playoff-caliber club? After the performance against Rio Grande Valley FC, some may not think so. They’re still in playoff contention, but anything less than a win at this point could hurt their chances.
Even with the return of Santi Moar, Head Coach Troy Lesesne opted to start the lesser-used Toni Soler – a decision that would later have a significant impact on the match.
From the opening whistle, United dominated possession while RGV was content to play behind the ball, forcing New Mexico to have to break their defense. That decision, in turn, allowed the Toros to do what they do best, counter attack.
A failed corner attempt for United in the 37th was cleared and allowed midfielder Kevin Rodriguez to run free down the left side. With no United defenders able to keep pace, Rodriguez made it into the box before the threat was quelled. Soler, however, would foul Rodriguez, and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty. RGV forward Carlos Small would step to the spot and would send his shot towards the top right corner. Cody Mizell would guess correctly, but an outstretched arm couldn’t stop the shot allowing the visitors to take the lead.
It wouldn’t take long for United to find an equalizer.
Manny Padilla, as he has done frequently this season, found himself in possession on the right-wing. With space, he would send a cross in towards the near post where Hamilton was waiting. Hamilton’s diving header would redirect the ball towards the far post and well out of reach of RGV keeper Nicolas Corti.
Back on level terms, the match would remain that way until the break. Given the performance of Soler in the first half, it came as no surprise to anyone that he was replaced by Moar at the half.
An already defensive RGV became even more so in the second half. Neither the introduction of Moar or Kevaughn Frater would give United any sort of inroads beating the Toro game plan.
For much of the second half, RGV was content to sit
in their own half waiting to counter. It wasn’t until much later in the match that RGV would start to look for a winner. Juan Carlos Obregon Jr. would come close in the 89th, putting a shot off the bar that had Mizell frozen. Even with five minutes of stoppage, United was unable to find a winner.
With yet another draw, United failed to take charge of their playoff dreams. After the end of the night, United found themselves sitting in 10th, while RGV was eliminated from the postseason.
Player of the Match
Sam Hamilton – another solid effort from Sam in the midfield helped the club contain the attack from Michael Salazar. Sam’s second goal of the season was from a fantastic header, and he also created three additional chances.
After league play concluded for the week, United found themselves 10th in the table. With a match in hand, United still has time to fight their way into possibly a home playoff match. Next weekend United’s path to the playoffs goes through Tulsa Roughnecks FC. Although Tulsa has already been eliminated from playoff contention, they will be looking to play spoiler against United. That match will kick off at 6 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, October 12 from ONEOK Field.