Now that New Mexico United’s (6-4-8) Open Cup run is over, they can get back to the business of focusing on league play.
Although there was an unfavorable result the last time out, one big positive came out of the match. Josh Suggs has looked sharp in limited time after coming back from an injury. With extended absences, it’s not uncommon to see players have issues regaining their fitness level, but Suggs doesn’t appear to have missed a beat.
Professional footballers know that when they’re called upon, they have to give it their all. Josh has done that every time out. Neither he or anyone else on the club is afraid to take on any challenge.
The next challenge; defeat Fresno FC (8-2-7) without Kevaughn Frater and Juan Pablo Guzman. With each serving a suspension, Frater due to yellow card accumulation and Guzman due to a red card, the rest of the club will have to step up their game. In their place, Ryan Williams and Toni Soler may both be inserted into the team sheet. While not the only options available to Head Coach Troy Lesesne, this seems to be the most likely.
Frater’s suspension also puts more importance on the role that Santi Moar will play in the match. Moar finally found the net for the first time since May during the match against Minnesota United FC, and it could be a sign of things to come. With any luck, the goal will spark something within Moar, and he’ll be a regular on the score sheet again.
A start for Soler could be what he, and the club, needs right now. Over the past few matches, the midfield play has left much to be desired. A possible pairing of Soler and Saalih Muhammad would be a look we haven’t seen for some time and just might catch Fresno off guard.
Some may have questioned the defensive efforts of the club after the Minnesota match, but it can’t be forgotten that it was a top MLS club. Take out the deflections and the mistake by Justin Schmidt, and suddenly it’s only a 2-1 match. The defense is much improved, but no back line is perfect. They have a chance to make a statement against Fresno FC on Saturday night.
United knows what has to be done as the season wears on. Realistically there have to be two goals; make the playoffs and win the Four Corners Cup. Make the playoffs, and anything can happen.
Players to Watch
Toni Soler – Soler may be a reach here or mentioning him as filling in for Guzman, but of the other midfielders, he’s got the best chance of helping shut down Fresno.
Josh Suggs – with him finding his match fitness, Suggs should be a force on both ends of the pitch. Fresno will have a tough time dealing with Suggs’ defensive prowess. He will have to be cautious to an extra though, as he is sitting on four yellow cards.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (11)
Assists: Chris Wehan (4)
Clearances: Schmidt (65)
Fresno FC has started finding their stride in league play over the past few weeks. They have some momentum on their side since they are riding a three-match win streak. That may see an end as they try to go up against an improved, and refocused United squad.
United face off against Fresno in their inaugural match at The Lab. The result of that match was a 1-1 draw with United controlling time of possession. Fresno has improved since then with forward Qudus Lawal emerging as a rising star.
Despite winning their last three matches, Fresno has struggled in possession, and that plays into United’s favor. One play that could help with that though is Ramon del Campo. He has been a stalwart in their defense with 70 clearances on the season. He could make life difficult for the United forwards throughout the night.
Players to Watch
Juan Pablo Caffa – one of Fresno’s key midfielders, he’s making a name for himself for finding key passes. He can create a number of opportunities for Lawal if given a chance.
Ramon del Campo – as mentioned above, he’s one of the better players on the Fresno defense. United need to get him out of rhythm and out of position with crisp ball movement and runs into the gaps.
Fresno FC Team Leaders
Goals: Lawal (7)
Assists: Jackson (5)
Clearances: del Campo (70)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8:30 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, July 13. 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.