New Mexico United (6-5-8) returns to league play tonight as they close out their longest road trip of the season against Sacramento Republic FC (8-8-2). Across all competitions, this will be United’s eighth match in a row on the road, a period in which they have struggled to maintain their form in league play. As a result of the struggles, United has fallen from first in the Western Conference to ninth.
United look to get back on track after going winless in each of the last four league matches. The last time out, the club lacked creativity largely in part due to the absence of Kevaughn Frater. Now that both Frater and Juan Pablo Guzman are back, United should be able to put together a more cohesive effort in the final third.
Although they weren’t active in league play last week, the friendly against the visiting Cardiff City FC could provide United with some much-needed confidence. After an early goal, the defensive efforts of United held the Bluebirds to a lone goal, late in the second half. The match with Cardiff City allowed nearly the entire roster to get into the action and there were several impressive efforts from individual players.
Facing an uphill battle the rest of the season, United can use the match against Cardiff as an experience from which they can build off of. This is important heading into the match with Sacramento this evening. Another playoff quality club, Sacramento presents some unique challenges for United. In the first meeting, they defeated United 3-0, but a full-strength United could flip that result on its head.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – back from his second suspension of the season, Frater has to know that he can’t continue to accumulate yellow cards at the rate he has been. Undeniably United’s point man, his presence on the pitch will be extremely important as the playoff push begins in earnest. Frater’s speed will cause problems for the Republic in the attacking third, and that could open the goal area for himself or someone else.
Saalih Muhammad – after an impressive showing against Cardiff City, Saalih could find himself in a spot to pick up his first goal of the season. He showed great vision against Cardiff and was able to show off his defensive skills against the internationals.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Kevaughn Frater (11)
Assists: Chris Wehan (4)
Saves: Cody Mizell (56)
Similar to United, the months of June and July have not been kind to Sacramento Republic FC. Across their first three matches in June, Sacramento scored 11 goals and picked up two clean sheets. Since then, the form of Sacramento has fallen off dramatically. In four matches since, they’ve only scored two goals, leading to a 1-3-0 record during that time. Last week their club was delivered a blow with the announcement that Josh Cohen had been sold to Maccabi Haifa FC of the Israeli Premier League.
The sale of Cohen has forced the club to turn to backup keeper Rafael Diaz. In two appearances so far this year, Diaz has conceded five goals and has claimed three saves. The loss of Cohen could have a significant impact on the prospects of Sacramento making the playoffs.
Fortune could still land in their favor with the signing of Dariusz Formella. Sacramento’s newest signing could potentially make his first appearance for the club tonight. Formella brings a unique set of skills to the USL and could make a big impact from either the striker or winger roles.
Players to Watch
Cameron Iwasa – Sacramento’s leading scorer, Iwasa bagged two goals in the first match and was able to find a lot of space in a makeshift back four for United. Now that Josh Suggs is back, Iwasa may find the night to be a good deal harder on him, but he has the quality to make magic from anywhere on the field.
Villyan Bijev – The combination of Bijev and Iwasa proved to be too much for United the first time out. Bijev hasn’t quite had the offensive numbers that some expected him to have, but he’s been able to contribute all season long.
Sacramento Republic FC Team Leaders
Goals: Iwasa (9)
Assists: Iwasa, Ray Saari, Sam Werner (3)
Saves: Diaz (3)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 9:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Wednesday, July 24. 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.