The matchup between the top two clubs in the Western Conference will face off this Friday in an early-season showdown. New Mexico United (3-1-4) is looking to rebound from their first loss of the season while Portland Timbers 2 (4-1-2) are trying to continue a run of three matches unbeaten.
This will be United’s toughest test to date, as they look to get back into the win column after a late goal by Reno 1868 FC ended the record streak set by United. How United responds could help set the tone for the future. In this, the first of a two-match homestand, United have history on their side with a 2-0-1 record at Isotopes Park.
A heartbreaking last-minute goal, after a missed handball, punctuated a match that saw United struggle to maintain their defensive form in the second half. United was also forced out of their game plan as Reno were quick to close on the ball throughout the match.
In order to bounce back, United will need to return to the form that led them through their undefeated streak. With the roster finally at full strength, they have more weapons at their disposal. Ball movement on the offensive side and a high press on the defensive side will be key to United getting back on track. That ball movement has been especially important as it allows Santi Moar to get into one on one situations, where he is very lethal. United can disrupt the Portland back line with increased pressure and causing mistakes, as they’ve done throughout the season.
Players to watch:
Ken Akamatsu – Ken made his professional debut last week against Reno and showed why he was a target of Coach Troy Lesesne. The University of Denver alum has speed and the ability to cut the ball back across the field and can open up things for Devon Sandoval and Kevaugn Frater.
Rashid Tetteh – Tetteh has been solid defensively for United this season. With nine interceptions, his vision of the field allows him to make plays.
New Mexico United Team Leaders:
Goals – Santi Moar (7)
Assists – Chris Wehan, Josh Suggs, Manny Padilla (2)
Chances Created – Josh Suggs (14)
Portland comes into the week riding a three-match undefeated streak. At first glance, the 2-0-1 record during that span may seem impressive, but the results have been hard to come by. In matches against OKC Energy and Colorado Switchbacks, Portland had to come from behind and against Sacramento, who went down to nine men, they were only able to put one shot on frame the entire match. While potent, the Portland attack has sputtered at times.
Both clubs are among the league leaders in goals scored and are also near the top in goals conceded. There are rising stars on each roster, making this will be a must-see match. Due to each club’s defensive struggles at times, the end result may come to a last-ditch stand or a late winner. United will need to try and contain some very creative members of Portland in order to do so.
Players to Watch:
Foster Langsdorf – Having notched two goals in their past three matches, Foster is a certified scoring threat. With reliable service, Foster will need to be a focal point for the United defense.
Eryk Williamson – Speaking of reliable service, Williamson has been the top creator for Portland. He’s managed 17 chances on the short season and will be looking to hook up with Langsdorf in the final third.
Portland Timbers 2 Team Leaders:
Goals: Foster Langsdorf (3)
Assists: Eryk Williamson (5)
Chances Created: Eryk Williamson (17)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Friday, April 26. 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.
Image Credit: Portland Timbers 2