It all comes down to the final day of the season. New Mexico United (10-10-13) has one more chance to play their way into a possible playoff spot. Unfortunately, that possibility isn’t only theirs to decide.
The road to the playoffs was simple earlier this week; win two matches and you’re in. Now, their playoff hopes depend on the outcome of three matches.
The first necessary outcome is clear; United has to win. Anything else and United’s season ends tonight. The other two matches of interest are the match between El Paso Locomotive and LA Galaxy II, as well as the match between San Antonio and Colorado Springs.
San Antonio and Colorado Springs kick-off at 6:30 p.m. and will be well underway by the time United begins play tonight. Depending on the play in that match, United may know their possible fate as they get underway. A win for Colorado Springs would be the best possible outcome in this match for United. A draw would give United hope as well.
The same can be said for the LA Galaxy II and El Paso match. An El Paso win is the best possible outcome as well, but a draw would help United’s chances. If both LA Galaxy and San Antonio win, then United’s season is over no matter what they do tonight against Las Vegas Lights FC (11-14-8).
There are plenty of reasons to believe that United can walk away with three points in this match, and that starts with the play of Devon Sandoval. With Kevaughn Frater suspended once again, Sandoval will likely feature as the lone striker for United. Sandoval shone in this role while Head Coach Troy Lesesne was managing Frater’s yellow card situation in September. His six-goal performance during that time earned him the USL Championship Player of the Month award for September.
After the performance at the end of the match last week, Sandoval and the rest of the club will no doubt be looking to improve upon their finishing. In a match where United recorded a USL season-high number of shots, 36, but only managed one goal, they need to make more of them count.
Josh Suggs will be returning after a one-match suspension due to yellow card accumulation. In his absence, Austin Yearwood reminded the supporters of how good he is. Using his pace, he was able to get behind Defiance defenders and disrupt their shape. With the return of Suggs, we’ll see similar runs on the left side, but United will also improve in the defensive third.
The last time these two clubs met, United was easily defeated while showcasing a lineup with several changes. That match took place while United was in the middle of their Open Cup run and took the opportunity to rest some players. That resulted in a 5-1 win for Las Vegas Lights FC. With a nearly full-strength lineup, this match is set for a different outcome.
Player to Watch
Manny Padilla – Padilla has come on strong towards the end of the season and has had chances to showcase his right leg. Having found consistency in his crossing ability, Manny can stretch opposing defenses and create space in the box. This will be key against a club like Las Vegas.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (14)
Assists: Padilla (7)Chances Created: Chris Wehan (61)
While they aren’t officially eliminated, Las Vegas Lights FC will need a miracle to qualify for the playoffs. Even if Lights FC steals a win in Albuquerque tonight, they need to somehow eliminate a goal differential of 13 goals, as well as get favorable results, to sneak in.
In their past five matches, their form has shown that they are capable of playing with the league leaders. With wins over Fresno FC and San Antonio, Vegas gave themselves a real shot at making their way into the playoffs. Irvin Parra has been a significant factor in all of their success this year and will look to have an impact on tonight’s match.
One stat going against Vegas is their road form. With only two wins on the road this season, they find themselves finishing out the season on the road against a United side that has been dealing with tough results. United could be the buzzsaw ending Vegas’ run if they come out and play with emotion and aggression.
Player to Watch
Irvin Parra – Without out a doubt, the biggest threat on the roster, Parra has been involved in 22 goals this year (15 goals, 7 assists). Under the tutelage of Eric Wynalda, Parra has emerged as a potential Team of the Year player.
Las Vegas Lights FC Team Leaders
Goals: Parra (15)
Assists: Parra (7)
Chances Created: Pablo Cruz (49)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, October 19. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. ESPN+ is viewable online via the ESPN app or across a variety of mobile and connected living room devices, including Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and more. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and via The TEAM app.