On a night when Kevaughn Frater was unexpectedly missing from the team sheet, New Mexico United (7-5-8) won their first match since May 25. Across social media, there was concern about the status of Frater, a question to the club about him went unanswered.
The hosts, Sacramento Republic FC (8-9-2) were looking to take advantage of a United side that had been struggling in league play over the past two months. Sacramento had also been dealing with some roster upheaval after the sale of keeper Josh Cohen and were looking to get back to winning ways as well.
United’s first trip to Papa John’s Park immediately felt familiar; within minutes United was subjected to the latest in a series of poor calls this season by referees. As the clock rounded two minutes, Kenny Akamatsu made a run from the ride side into the area. After he entered the box, he was taken down from behind, yet the referee made no call.To their credit, United didn’t let the early decision affect their play.
Minutes later a through ball from Juan Pablo Guzman would spring Chris Wehan on the left-wing. Bearing down on Republic defender Dekel Keinan, Wehan would take the ball onto his right foot and put a screamer past Rafael Diaz and into the back right corner.
United grabbed the lead in the 10th woke up Sacramento and their attack stepped up their efforts. For much of the remainder of the half, Sacramento would put increased pressure into the attacking third. Villyan Bijev and Cameron Iwasa would put several shots into the danger zone, but were unable to find pay dirt. Bijev would put a curling shot towards goal that looked sure to strike home, but an incredible effort by Cody Mizell kept the hosts off the scoreboard.
As the first half drew to a close, Devon Sandoval would be given a questionable yellow card. On a 50/50 ball at the top of the Sacramento box, Sandoval and Republic defender Ray Saari would collide, and Sandoval came away with the ball. Instead of having what would have been a 1-on-1 with Diaz, the referee gave a yellow to Sandoval, ending United’s attack for the half.
With the level of physicality picking up, United seemed to be in their element. Sacramento, on the other hand, wasn’t handling it well and their frustrations began to show. Often playing recklessly at times, they were taking many more chances compared to United’s now very methodical passing.
The frantic pace now employed by Sacramento had a negative effect on United. Briefly struggling to maintain their shape, Sacramento would take advantage and find an opening to pull level.
In the 75th, a corner for Sacramento wouldn’t go to plan, but they were able to settle the ball again and play it out to the right-wing for Sam Werner. A curling shot from Werner, and what looked like an obstructed view for Cody Mizell, found its way just inside the far post. After the Werner goal, there were minutes of unease as the hosts were unrelenting with time running short.
The defensive effort of United’s back four held firm, and the quick reactions of Cody Mizell kept the score level until the 89th. On a volley, Daniel Bruce put the finishing touches on the match. His first career goal went soaring into the top left corner of the goal and beyond the reach of Diaz. Bruce’s goal, sure to be a Goal of the Week contender, was the final nail in the coffin for Sacramento.
The final moments weren’t without drama however, as Mizell was called into action once again making a tremendous save in stoppage time.
Player of the Match
Daniel Bruce – His first professional goal couldn’t have come at a better time for United. Bruce’s goal took all the wind out of Sacramento’s sails and sealed the three points. When your first career goal finds its way to the Sportscenter Top 10 list, it’s hard to top that moment.
After nearly two months on the road, United will return to The Lab. With only 14 matches remaining in the regular season, United will play host for 10 of them. This opens up an opportunity for United to gain even more ground on the conference leaders. Their first opportunity will take place on July 31, when United will host El Paso Locomotive FC. That match will kick off at 7 p.m. (Mountain).
As part of a two-match homestand next week, United will also play host to Austin Bold FC on Saturday, August 3rd. That match will be the first-ever Meow Wolf night with a special costume contest hosted by the club. Kickoff for the Bold match will be at 7:30 p.m. (Mountain).