New Mexico United (6-3-8) kick off the second half of their inaugural season in Salt Lake City on Saturday. After a well deserved 14 days off, United should be well rested as they take on Real Monarchs SLC (6-6-3).
After unfavorable results in the last few league outings, United has a chance at a fresh start after the break.
United coasted to a 5-1 victory at The Lab the first time the two clubs met. The club will look to have a similar result Saturday night.
During the first meeting, Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar combined for four of the five goals. They were able to easily pick apart the Real defensive look and never took their foot off the gas. After a major upheaval in their squad during the off-season, Real didn’t put up much of a fight. Since that match, Frater has been one of the most dangerous forwards in all of USL, bringing his goals total to 14 across all competitions.
Although he’s sitting on nine goals, Moar hasn’t scored since May 25th against Austin Bold. United have needed to cope with defenses adjusting to their runs up the left, and the inclusion of Kenny Akamatsu and Daniel Bruce have started to make a difference. Moar still deserves a ton of credit for the impact he has on the matches. With a 69.2% accuracy rating on his shots (27/39), Moar continues to be a threat opposing clubs must account for.
During league play, United as a whole have suffered in the attacking phase since the match with Austin. With a heavy workload and tired legs, United have only managed three goals in that time. Now that the club has had a chance to rest, there should be a marked improvement in their pace and movement.
One important thing has happened over the past two months. United’s defense has continued to improve and have held against fierce competition, including MLS clubs. The club now has multiple options in the back line. The return of Justine Schmidt, the emergence of Ethen Sampson and the overall level of play has dramatically improved from the beginning of the season. Now that Josh Suggs has had time to rehab, barring any setbacks, he should be returning any day to the team sheet.
United’s explosion onto the scene took many off guard. And it’s possible they no longer are. Coach Troy Lesesne will have his club prepared to adapt and work at making any changes they need.
This match could jumpstart United as the back half of the season get underway and give them momentum heading into their next Open Cup match. Watch for United to get back to moving the ball efficiently, holding the midfield and a solid defensive outing this Saturday. If they can limit RMSLC’s chances, another three points added to the season tally.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – Due to the recent surge from Phoenix Rising and Solomon Asante, Frater has slipped to second in the Golden Boot race. If you ask him though, he’ll tell you it’s not about individual accolades, it’s about the club. Frater will be looking to help give the club momentum before they head to Minnesota next week, without him. The league hasn’t figured out how to stop Frater yet, and Real won’t be the ones to do it.
Sam Hamilton – With the absence of Suggs in the back four, Hamilton has stepped up his play tremendously. Hamilton will work to contain Douglas Martínez, who has come on strong in recent weeks for RMSLC.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (11)
Shots: Moar (39)
Blocks: Schmidt (15)
Real comes into the match in a strange position. Currently 14th in the table, the lowest they’ve been in years, they’re riding high on a three-match win streak. Their most recent victory came with a cost, however. Head coach Martin Vasquez resigned after the match, leaving the club to name Jámison Olave as its interim manager. Olave has been with the club in a coaching position since 2016, so it’s likely that not much will change under his watch.
The more interesting question is how will the players respond to the sudden departure?
Maikel Chang was a player to watch earlier in the season, but recently he’s taken a back seat to the previously Douglas Martínez. With five goals in as many matches, he’s given RMSLC a viable threat up top. Probably the most important thing for Real during their recent matches is that they picked up their first two road wins of the season, ending a road winless streak that stretched back into 2018.
Real started the season strong at home, registering back-to-back clean sheets. In the five home matches since, they’ve gone on to allow 14 goals. They’re vulnerable at the back, which is something that United took advantage of at The Lab.
Players to Watch
Maikel Chang and Douglas Martínez – easily the two biggest threats for RMSLC, it’s hard to not pick them. The combination play of the two and their ability to create mismatches with their movement. United will have to find a way to contain both of them in order to pick up three points.
Real Monarchs SLC Team Leaders
Goals: Chang, Martínez (6)
Shots: Chang (28)
Blocks: Karen Ryder (6)
Four Corners Cup Update
Real managed to stay alive in their hunt for the Four Corners Cup during their recent win streak. A 2-1 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks kept their slim chances afloat for the time being.
A loss this weekend against New Mexico would eliminate Real from the possibility of winning the Cup. Any other result would give them another lifeline while diminishing United’s chances.
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, July 6. 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.
Photo courtesy Cameron Goeldner/Daily Lobo