New Mexico United’s (6-2-7) longest road trip of the season kicked off in style this week. On Wednesday night, United’s nearly two-month-long trip began with a historic victory for the club. In their first-ever meeting with an MLS club, United defeated Colorado Rapids on penalty kicks in the U.S. Open Cup.
United is looking to continue that success on Saturday night against Las Vegas Lights FC (4-6-3).
Devon Sandoval and Kevaughn Frater led the attack on Wednesday, but as United look to regain the league form expect to see some different faces in the team sheet. Most of the players who featured against Colorado played the full 120 minutes and may get the night off, especially considering the next Open Cup match is just around the corner. It will be interesting to see how much rotation Coach Troy Lesesne has in the team sheet. For their last league match, there were seven changes, but United struggle against Sacramento.
Ryan Williams could be in line for a start in place of Sandoval or Frater. Signed out of John Brown University, Williams has primarily seen spot starts this year. Despite the limited match time he has managed to find the back of the net twice so far. Ryan has the ability to be a viable threat, which he demonstrated during his time at JBU. During his collegiate career, Ryan amassed 27 goals and 37 assists. If he leads the line against Lights FC, he could be in for a big night.
United’s Captain Josh Suggs has missed the past few matches with an injury, but that hasn’t left them with a gap in leadership. Cody Mizell has assumed the captain’s armband and had filled that role perfectly. His constant communication with the defense has helped them get through absences of different players. The development of the defense is due in large part to the leadership of Mizell and Suggs during their time on the pitch.
Players to Watch
Kenny Akamatsu – With Daniel Bruce playing the majority of the match on Wednesday, Kenny could get a start this weekend. He provides an offensive spark on the right wing and could be instrumental for United.
Rashid Tetteh – With how well Sam Hamilton and Ethen Sampson have been performing, it’s been hard to get Rashid minutes. Rashid may get the start in order to rest Hamilton and will be an important part of the defense.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (10)
Assists: Wehan, Manny Padilla, Suggs, Frater (3)
Chances Created: Santi Moar, Wehan (19)
Lights FC is a hard club to quantify. They’re undefeated at home and winless on the road. In league play, they’ve scored more than two goals four times, scored one goal five times, and have been kept scoreless five times. Although their attack is very much feast or famine, they have found most of their success from within the box (18 of 19 goals scored).
Irvin Parra, the club’s leading scorer, has been suspended following an incident last weekend. After scoring a goal, Parra’s celebration and subsequent Instagram post suggested that Lights FC had not been paying their players. His actions forced the club to issue a response, and they ultimately suspended him. Without him in the team sheet, Lights coach Eric Wynalda has a tough task ahead of him as does the Lights attack.
Gabriel Robinson and Thomas Olsen are the major reasons for the success that Lights FC has had this year. Lights FC is third in the league with six clean sheets and is hoping to post another against United. With a heavy rotation expected, they could be in line for another. No matter who United sends out though, it will be a tough matchup for Lights to handle.
Players to Watch
Christian Hernandez – Lights FC has a tremendous creator in Hernandez. With 32 chances created on the year, he’s putting his team into positions where they can flourish. He’ll most likely match up against Justin Schmidt, and it will be interesting to see how the two go at each other and who will win the most duels
Las Vegas Lights FC Team Leaders
Goals: Parra (8)
Assists: Christian Hernandez, Parra (3)
Chances Created: Hernandez (32)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, June 15. 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: @NewMexicoUTD via Twitter