New Mexico United (8-5-9) has officially hit the home stretch of the schedule. With only twelve matches remaining, United is one of nearly a dozen clubs still fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
Phoenix, Reno, and Fresno have all but assured themselves of a spot leaving five spots still up for grabs. With only seven points separating the clubs currently sitting from fourth to fourteenth, every match from here on out will be crucial in determining the final playoff seeding. United appears to be turning around from the midseason slump that they suffered, picking up four points in their last two matches. If the recent results are any indication of what’s to come, United could find themselves pulling away from the middle of the pack.
While much of the club’s early-season success was largely due to Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar scoring nearly at will, the two have cooled off somewhat over the past month. This could be due to other clubs figuring out just how to play the two stars for United. In response though, players like Chris Wehan and Daniel Bruce have emerged, showing that opposing defenses have more to worry about. The partnership between these two has flourished in recent weeks with both feeding off of each other, the result being two Goal of the Week winners and one Team of the Week nod.
Although the club struggled on set pieces against Austin last week, there were many positives to take away the performance. One of the biggest reasons that United was able to come away with the draw was the play of Justin Schmidt. He seems to have found an extra gear and was instrumental in anchoring the backline for United. The club has always shown a next man up mentality, but Justin personifies this week in and week out. In the absence of Josh Suggs, Schmidt has become a leader for this club and it is reflected on the pitch.
Players to Watch
Chris Wehan – Chris’ confidence has to be through the roof right now. His performances lately have been superb and he’s making a case that perhaps the MLS should come calling again. Capable of filling in for Frater in the 10 role or dropping back, he could be in for another big night with Frater drawing the attention of the Portland defense.
Josh Suggs – After a rare night not being in the starting eleven, which may have just been for rest, Suggs could have an important role for the night. Granted, as the captain, he always does but against a squad like Portland, his leadership will be necessary for understanding what Portland will want to do and how to contain them.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (13)
Passing Accuracy: Juan Pablo Guzman (91.5%)
Blocks: Justin Schmidt (18)
Portland Timbers 2 (7-7-8) is a club without a rudder currently. With only one win in their last ten matches, Timbers 2 are seeing their playoff hopes slip away week by week. Even with the run of results, they still sit one point out of playoff position, but their grip on it is tenuous at best. This match against United could either be a way back into the discussion or they could find themselves slipping further from the cutoff line.
Portland has been buoyed at times by loans from their parent club, MLS side Portland Timbers. Quite possibly the most impactful of all of them has been the use of forward Dairon Asprilla. In seven appearances for the USL side, he’s averaging a goal per match and is the club’s leading scorer. His performances for Timbers 2 are a far cry from what he’s managed in his time with the MLS club. While many think he could be playing top tier football, he hasn’t proven it against MLS competition. The question for tonight though, is can Josh Suggs and company contain him?
Portland Timbers 2 Team Leaders
Goals: Asprilla (7)
Passing Accuracy: Jose Carlos Anguiano (87.2%)
Blocks: Modou Jadama (13)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Sunday, August 11. 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.