The first meeting between New Mexico United (4-1-5) and El Paso Locomotive FC (3-2-3) will set the stage for the beginning of the I-25 rivalry. Even without a history between these two, there is already a feeling of competitiveness in the air. On Sunday the two sides will finally see how things play out on the pitch at Southwest University Stadium.
All week long fans of both clubs have taken to Twitter to poke at each other. Even Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller joined in on the fun putting out a tweet that read: “Sorry, what was that? I couldn’t hear you from all the way up here in 1st place…”. The fans are ready for Sunday’s match, now its time to see if the clubs are as well.
New Mexico United are coming off of a 3-0 win over San Antonio FC on Cinco de Mayo. In front of a club record crowd, United put together what is arguably their best performance of the year. Even in victory, there were things that United will need to improve upon if they want to string together wins for the first time. After jumping out to an early lead, United looked complacent for much of the first half and allowed SAFC time to settle in. This changed dramatically after the break and United came out with the pedal down and didn’t look back.
To succeed against El Paso, United has to play within their system. They need to employ the high press we’ve seen a lot of this year and work hard to find space for Santi Moar. In the second half against SAFC, Moar and Chris Wehan were able to put on deep runs up the left channel and get in behind the defense. United’s pace and ability to move the ball will be key to breaking down the El Paso defense.
Players to Watch
Josh Suggs – Josh has shown an incredible ability to create. He’s got a ton of pace for a fullback and has no problem making long runs. Against El Paso, Josh could be in for a big night defensively.
Devon Sandoval – In his first start back, Devon found the net early. Putting in a solid shift, Dev looks ready to have a big night. His work rate and physicality are going to cause problems for El Paso.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Santi Moar, Kevaughn Frater (7)
Assists: Chris Wehan, Kevaughn Frater (3)
Chances Created: Kevaughn Frater, Josh Suggs (15)
While New Mexico has shown a very aggressive play style, El Paso has been the complete opposite. El Paso has only scored eight goals on the season. Compared to United, who have scored 22 times already, the El Paso attack isn’t very appealing. That’s not where their strength lies, however. With a solid defense in front of keeper Logan Ketterer, they rank near the top of the USL Championship in fewest goals allowed with seven. That suffocating defense has afforded Ketterer no small amount of protection, only allowing opponents 21 shots on target.
In order for El Paso to defend their home turf, they will need to rely heavily on their defensive play. Their forwards haven’t shown much chemistry in their link-up play and don’t score often. Even though they are only averaging one goal every 90 minutes (United is averaging one every 40.9 minutes), they do have a possible threat in Sebastián Contreras. Watch for El Paso to try and close down the passing lanes and put a lot of pressure on Moar to try and keep him contained. The best bet for El Paso is to keep the score close and possibly steal a result.
Players to Watch
Sebastián Contreras – Quite possibly the most dangerous offensive player on the roster, Contreras has already contributed 2 assists, 18 shots and 16 chances created. A matchup between Juan Guzmán and Contreras could be a lot of fun to watch.
El Paso Locomotive FC Team Leaders
Goals: Edson Partida, Jerome Kiesewetter, Derek Gebhard (2)
Assists: Sebastián Contreras (2)
Chances Created: Sebastián Contreras (16)
Both clubs have a player facing a possible suspension should they receive another yellow card. Kevaughn Frater for United and James Kiffe for El Paso are both sitting on four yellows.
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Sunday, May 12. 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.