No matter the sport, there’s nothing quite like the opening weekend. While the USL doesn’t have a significant event like other leagues do, the supporters are what makes it special.
Unfortunately for New Mexico United, their supporters, for the most part, will have to wait for the home opener on the 21st to make a scene. For those lucky enough to be able to travel this weekend, they should be in for a hard-fought match.
Unlike United, Austin Bold FC didn’t make many changes to their roster this offseason. The most significant change for Bold was the signing of Ismaila Jome from Switchbacks FC. His arrival, along with three other defenders, drastically improves the outlook for Bold’s defensive efforts over last season. Given that they finished 8th in the conference last year, an improved defense could be the difference between a play-in spot in the playoffs and a solid seed.
Even with those improvements in the back, the core of the Bold roster from their inaugural season remained intact. Kris Tyrpac, Kleber, and Andre Lima all returned and with a full season under their belts, should be even more dangerous than last season. As hard as they were to contain in the two meetings in 2019, none of the trio were able to find the back of the net. Containing them will be the key for United to open 2020 with three points.
United comes into the season with eight new faces on the squad on opening day. After a productive preseason, things are looking bright for the club as they try to replace the goal production of Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar. Of the new signings, there are a handful that could potentially break into the starting XI.
Veteran defender and newcomer Kalen Ryden is poised to be one of them. With a USL championship under his belt from Real Monarchs, Ryden brings football knowledge and leadership, not to mention height, to the United backline. Much was made of the backline last season and their struggles late in matches, and the introduction of Ryden could be just what United needs to improve.
The bigger question facing the club though is where the goals will come from. Losing 25 goals is tough for any club to replace, but for a second-year club, it could be a tougher hill to climb. Fortunately, head coach Troy Lesesne brought in two proven scorers in Amando Moreno and Romeo Parkes. They’re also joined by rookie Sammy Sergi, who has played extremely well in the preseason.
United have the creativity between Chris Wehan and Moreno to cause the backline of Bold plenty of headaches throughout the night. If Moreno lines up on the left and Wehan either in the middle or underneath of Devon Sandoval, it will spread the Bold defense, opening up space for Sandoval in the box.
Saturday’s match is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. (Mountain) kickoff from Bold Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM as well as The TEAM App.