Despite a steady breeze at kickoff, as soon as the sun began to dip behind The Lab, it didn’t take long for the action to heat up on the pitch.
In the opening moments, New Mexico United (8-6-10) was the clear aggressor. Taking advantage of some open space at the top of the box, Chris Wehan would let a shot fly, but it would go well left of the frame.
Despite their early efforts, United would fall victim to one of its flaws. LA Galaxy 2 (8-8-9) newcomer Muhammad Kamara, with a magnificent display of skill, would put the visitors on top before the tenth minute. Kamara would pop the ball up to himself and with no United defender able to dispossess him, finished neatly in the back right corner of the net.
Falling behind at home awoke the United attack as they controlled the ball for vast stretches of the next twenty minutes. After multiple chances were denied by Los Dos inside the area, United would finally find an equalizer. Jose Hernandez would deliver a set piece in the United half, but the ball was cleared by Devon Sandoval. The resulting play saw Kevaughn Frater release on a breakaway. Flanked by Sandi Moar and Wehan, Frater would shrug off potential tackles from three separate Galaxy defenders. Going down on the third attempt, Frater was able to play the ball off to Moar. Now in a 2 on 1 with Galaxy keeper Eric Lopez, an easy lay off from Moar gave Wehan all the space he needed to pull the hosts back level.
The night got worse for the visitors midfielder Adam Saldana was sent off before the half with his second yellow of the match. Having been involved in much of the Galaxy attack for the first half, the sending off would no doubt have an impact on the remainder of the match.
The first real impact of the sending off was felt as soon as the second half began.
With two changes to the lineup to start the half, Galaxy would play closer to a 4-4-1 formation to try and keep United from pulling ahead. Two more defenders would prove to be a challenge for United for the rest of the match. The final 30 minutes would give the fans a bit of everything possible in a soccer match.
On a run, Wehan would put a rocket off of the crossbar just after the hour mark. Moments later, he would take supplant Frater at the spot for United’s attempt at a penalty. His shot was saved as well. Having missed, it just didn’t seem to be United’s night. When asked after the match about Wehan taking the PK, Head Coach Troy Lesesne would state that the decision on who takes them is up to him. “I have an order that I talk to them about, and they’re supposed to execute that order.”
Down a man, Galaxy didn’t give in, however. Although they played much more defensively during the second half, there were still moments in which they looked dangerous on the attack. None more so than when Galaxy forward Augustine Williams made a run into the right side of the area. Going down on what appeared to be a soft penalty, he was directed to the spot by the referee. Williams would get Cody Mizell going the wrong way and bury the attempt into the top left corner to retake the lead.
Finding themselves behind again, United would continue to force the issue. Their attempts to get into the Los Dos goal area would result in another penalty attempt in the 79th. Frater would again get the call, and this time he would convert to go level again. It wasn’t the prettiest of shots; an attempted panenka that nearly died in the sod.
“Up a man for that long, you need to come away with three points. Field conditions don’t matter at all,” said Lesesne.
The sod was an issue all night for both clubs. On multiple occasions, players slipped when attempting to play through the infield area. Ron Patel, VP of Sales and Partnerships, would say that the sod was laid at its usual interval before the match. From an observer’s standpoint, the condition of the sod would play a factor in the outcome of the match, with players slipping as they were trying to play the ball in the goal area.
With only minutes to go, Los Dos began to milk the clock, taking extra time to get up from fouls or setting up kicks.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the game,” said Moar about how much time Galaxy was wasting. “I probably have to deal with it better, we as a team have to deal with it better.”
As time ran out, United was unable to find a winner despite their best efforts. For the players and the fans, it was a frustrating night, ending up with only a point. A more accurate statement would be that United dropped two points instead of earning one.
Player of the Match
Kevaughn Frater – his relentless attack and unlimited energy gave United plenty of opportunities to pull out a victory. He single-handedly created the offensive attack that led to the first goal and he converted on United’s second penalty attempt of the night.
New Mexico United will make a trip down to San Antonio in a crucial Western Conference matchup. That match will take place on August 24 at 6:30 p.m. (Mountain).