The month of May has kept Head Coach Troy Lesesne and his club going nonstop. With five of six matches in the books, New Mexico United (6-1-6) has proven that they belong at the top. The match against Austin Bold FC (4-5-3), the fourth in a row on the road, was arguably the toughest of the League matches during this stretch.
Before tonight Bold FC had been undefeated at home. After tonight, however, that record has fallen to the league leaders.
United knew what they had to do and what to expect from a solid defense. In the match preview, one of the keys for United was to ensure that they moved the ball well. With the style of defense that Bold was presenting, United was able to take advantage of the lack of a press, and they were able to generate movement.
The night didn’t start well for Austin as midfielder Jorge Troncoso went down with an injury requiring a substitution in the 4th minute. He was immediately signaling that he would need to come out and was eventually stretchered off the field and was sent to the local hospital.
With Bold already in a bind due to the injury, their situation didn’t get any better. In the 29th minute, United midfielder Santi Moar made a run up the left side of the box. As he neared the byline, he attempted to pass the ball back to a waiting Chris Wehan who was in front of the goal. The pass was deflected by defender Amobi Okugo and into the net for an own goal, putting the visiting United side ahead.
After the goal, the match took on a different feel. Although United was ahead, their demeanor appeared to change, and Bold was the side playing as if they were in the lead.
For the remainder of the half, Bold stayed on the attack. But despite the renewed efforts, Bold only managed seven total shots in the first half, and only one of those forced a save from United keeper Cody Mizell. Austin is not a high scoring club and coming away with only one goal from the extended period of opportunity had to feel disheartening.
As the second half got underway, whatever message was delivered at halftime by Lesesne seemed to have hit home. The energy level was much improved for United. This has been an issue for them multiple times throughout the season, and it has adversely affected the outcomes of matches. Not in terms of additional losses, but in dropping points and walking away with a draw instead of win.
Even with the renewed energy for United, Bold was able to strike first in the second half. At the 55 minute mark, Sean McFarlane would curl a cross into the box, and Isaac Promise rose above the United defense to place the header into the back of the net, pulling the hosts level. The placement of both the cross and the resulting header could not be stopped. United, who is very good at closing down on opponents, couldn’t reach McFarlane in time to prevent the chance from happening.
From this point though, the match became about Moar. Towards the end of the first half, Moar was becoming visibly frustrated and managed to pick up his fourth yellow card of the year. Much like the rest of the club, Moar came out of the half in what appeared to be a better mindset. In the 62nd minute, a foul on Ryan Williams gave United a chance to try and convert on a free kick from 30 yards. Moar, who is very good at this range, would take the kick and after a slight deflection, the ball would find the back of the net for Moar’s eighth goal of the year.
Now up 2-1, United would pick up another advantage in the 72nd. As Devon Sandoval and David Estrada were both making runs towards goal, defender Fabien Garcia took down Estrada from behind and was shown a red card for a Denial of Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO). The resulting free kick, again taken by Moar, would be saved, but the damage had been done.
Moar would once again make a run in the 88th, this time down the right side. Nearing the goal, Moar feinted as if to shoot causing Bold keeper Juan David Ramirez to go to ground. Once Ramirez committed to the decision, Moar was able to dribble around him and from a difficult angle find the net again sealing the victory for United.
United’s keys to victory were to find space and to create issues in the Bold backline. They were able to accomplish both of these. While independently important, these two keys together have been a significant factor in many of United’s matches this year and will be in their continued success.
Player of the Match
Santi Moar – Returning from his one-match suspension, and now a yellow card away from another, Moar was able to find the net twice and was responsible for a third despite not netting it himself. Moar getting back on the score sheet and showing multiple different ways to get the job done has to be a scary thought for upcoming opponents.
Four Corners Cup Update
Elsewhere in the league, Phoenix Rising defeated Real Monarchs SLC 4-2 and picked up three more points in the Four Corners Cup standings. United still sit in first with seven points, but Rising is on their heels with five points.
United has another short week ahead of them as they head out for the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. In what will be their fifth match in a row on the road, United will be facing off against Colorado Switchbacks FC for the second time within two weeks. The match will take place at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, May 29th at 7 p.m. (Mountain). The match will be available on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and streaming live on www.1017theteam.com.