A two-hour lightning delay couldn’t keep the fans away and it didn’t take long for New Mexico United to reward their patience.
From the time the opening whistle sounded United made their presence felt on the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC side of the pitch. United’s ball movement kept the Switchbacks defenders off balance and allowed the Black and Yellow chances to find their way into the final third. After Switchbacks defender Ismaila Jome was unable to successfully clear a cross, the ball fell to the feet of Devon Sandoval. Sandoval wouldn’t waste any time firing the ball towards goal and shook the bottom right corner to put United up in the 8th minute.
Over the next ten minutes, United would continue to harass Switchbacks keeper Abraham Rodriguez, coming close to doubling the lead multiple times. Those attacks would come to naught after a string of heavy touches prevented United from getting quality touches to convert those chances.
Not converting on the early opportunities allowed Colorado Springs to play their way into the match. Switchbacks FC began to show some teeth just past the half-hour mark. Both Saeed Robinson and Fernando Gonzalez would come within inches of pulling the visitors level. Each of their shots would find the post and ricochet away.
The close calls with danger relit the fire under United. For the remainder of the half, they would allow Colorado to only put one shot on target and would in turn head into the half with 64% possession.
Unlike last week against OKC Energy, United didn’t allow the halftime break to disrupt their momentum. Less than two minutes after play resumed, Sandoval would strike again. Manny Padilla would play a fantastic ball forward as Sandoval streaked down the right wing. Switchbacks defender Kristoffer Reaves would attempt to intercept the pass but would make a tactical error and misjudge the path of the ball. Unable to make the stop, Sandoval would take possession and in short order nutmeg Rodriguez shaking the net for a second time and doubling the hosts’ lead.
Now comfortably in the lead, United refused to sit on their laurels and let the match just play out. Time and time again they would find themselves in space in the final third, but that final touch just wasn’t there for the club. That would all change in the 66th.
Once again the connect between Padilla and Sandoval would prove to be too much for the Switchbacks. This time Padilla would put toe to leather and place a cross perfectly into the box. At the other end of the cross Sandoval was waiting, and with a flick of his head sent the ball back across the face of the goal into the far left corner.
Now with a three-goal lead, the mission changed to maintaining the clean sheet. As has been the case throughout the year, United has struggled to keep opponents off the scoresheet. Tonight would be no different.
With Colorado playing the aggressors after going down by three, an extended period of possession gave them a corner kick with just under fifteen minutes to play. Jome would set up to be the set piece taker and would deliver the ball into the danger area. Switchbacks forward Jerome Burt, their leading goalscorer, would find himself unmarked and with an unorthodox header manage to pull a goal back for the visitors.
Despite their best efforts, Colorado would not be able to find the net again. In what was a very physical affair, United took every punch that Switchbacks FC could throw at them and now head into a pivotal match with Reno 1868 FC riding a two-match winning streak.
Player of the Match
Devon Sandoval – With five goals in two matches, Sandoval’s performances have been one of the biggest factors in United’s recent resurgence. His relationship with Padilla has become one that can’t be overlooked when the two are on the pitch at the same time.
Manny Padilla picked up two assists on the night. When asked what he attributed his recent form to he praised his teammates. “My teammates’ movement off the ball, it’s incredible,” said Padilla. “It makes my life easier, I’m really happy that they move around and give me options.”
With the win, the club moves to 8-0-6 on the season when scoring first. “It’s about setting the tone,” said David Estrada when asked. “I think OKC was a perfect example of how we went after it and weren’t going to go there to defend. We know we need these three points.”
United’s quest for the playoffs continues next Friday, when they welcome Reno 1868 FC to The Lab. Not only is the club looking to provide some additional security to their playoff ambitions, they are also looking for some revenge. The first time the two sides met, Reno prevailed 2-1 and were able to keep both Frater and Moar off the scoresheet.The match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 20.