Match Preview: Tulsa Roughnecks FC vs New Mexico United

After two consecutive draws, there’s a feeling of uncertainty surrounding New Mexico United (10-9-12). Early in the season, getting a string of results like this would have been seen as a positive. While pursuing a spot in the playoffs, however, dropping points could prevent the club from securing a berth.

United came into the final four weeks of the season staring down an extremely favorable schedule. With opportunities to face four clubs below them in the standings, United stood to gain ground in the standings. The first match in that series didn’t go how many believed it would, though.

In what could only be described as a letdown, United fell behind to Rio Grande Valley FC in the first half and had to fight their way back to earn a point. A win would have given United some breathing room. Instead, they’re in a position in which they have to win at least two of the final three matches to ensure at least a spot in the play-in round.

This weekend, United faces off against Tulsa Roughnecks FC (7-15-10) in their final road match of the season. The first time the two sides met, United picked up the first win club history on the backs of goals from Devon Sandoval and Santi Moar. That was when there was nothing on the line. Now, the club is searching for the momentum necessary to propel themselves into the playoffs.

There were positives from last weekend against RGV that the club can build off of, but the biggest factor will be whether or not the club can convert on their chances. The creation of those chances is going to come from one of two ways; the play of Manny Padilla on the wing or Chris Wehan in the middle. In recent weeks Padilla has rocketed to the top of the assist chart as a result of several well-placed crosses.

At the time of the first meeting, Tulsa defender Luca Lobo had been one of the best scoring defenders in the league and punished the United backline. Now that they’ve had a season to gel, it should be a different result. Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh have put together several solid performances over the past few weeks and should do the same against Tulsa.

Player to Watch
Chris Wehan – Wehan has become a catalyst for the club but has had a few off weeks. Tulsa provides Wehan the perfect opportunity to be creative and dangerous on the pitch. With the right game plan, Wehan could find himself back on the scoreline
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Kevaughn Frater (14)
Assists: Padilla (7)

While their season hasn’t put them where they way to be, Roughnecks FC has a chance to play spoiler the rest of the way. Being eliminated from the playoffs is sometimes a catalyst for clubs to loosen the reigns and just play. In their past five matches, Roughnecks have scored eight goals showing that they aren’t without teeth.

Like other clubs, their best chance to get on the scoresheet against United will be if they can catch them out of position. For Tulsa, a lot of their offense depends on the play of Rodrigo da Costa. The Brazilian midfielder has proven to be a threat from inside the box. With nine goals this season, Schmidt and Tetteh will need to be able to account for his whereabouts at all times.
Defensively Tulsa has their work cut out for them. Trying to stop what has become one of the most potent attacks in the USL will be a tall task for one of the most porous defenses in the league.

Player to Watch
Luca Lobo – The talented Roughnecks defender may have cooled off in the attacking third, but defensively he’s been one of the bright spots for them this year. Lobo will be instrumental to the game plan if Tulsa has any hope of stopping the many weapons from United.
Tulsa Roughnecks FC Team Leaders
Goals: da Costa (9)
Assists: da Costa (13)

The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Saturday, October 12. 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.