From October 19, 2019, until May 6, 2021, The Lab stood dormant while the world was shut down due to COVID-19. On May 6th, the Isotopes were able to return, and now it’s New Mexico United’s turn to play in front of their own supporters.
After 575 days, the Black and Yellow get to play on their home pitch when they welcome in Austin Bold FC. The series between the two clubs was on hiatus during the 2020 campaign, and when it resumes, United leads the series with a record of 1-1-0. This match is not only United’s first match at home for the season. It is also the season opener for Austin.
Coming off of a record of 5-4-7 in 2020, the Bold will be looking to improve and make a return to the playoffs. Head Coach Marcelo Serrano will no doubt have his side prepared for the new campaign. With some new faces on his bench, Austin looks to be a contender within the Mountain Division on paper.
Omar Gordon looks to be the player to lead the Bold attack on the pitch. After a successful stint at OKC Energy FC, Gordon made a move in the offseason to Texas to play alongside fellow newcomers Jason Johnson and Stefano Pinho. The trio of forwards each has shown in prior stops that they are capable of scoring almost at will and are dangerous any time they have possession of the ball.
Behind them, Serrano brought in a plethora of new faces in one of the biggest offseason changes within the division. It was a necessary move after the departures of Bold mainstays Diego Restrepo, Andre Lima, and more.
Players to Watch
Sean Okoli – Yet another forward that was added by Austin during the offseason. Okoli netted seven goals in 2020 for Orange County. Austin’s attack has been greatly bolstered by the group of forwards that Serrano has signed this year.
Hugo Fauroux – Bold’s newest keeper is potentially the replacement for Restrepo. The 6’ 1” Frenchman last played for Palm Beach Stars after beginning his professional career overseas. With his build, he is an imposing frame between the sticks.
On what is sure to be an emotional night for New Mexico United, the goal has to remain priority number one. The biggest question for the club is how will they manage those emotions and can they maintain their composure. For the majority of the current roster, this will be their first time in front of the home crowd and the atmosphere they create.
Head Coach Troy Lesesne will have to instruct his players to lean on the club veterans to provide valuable leadership on the pitch. Players like Devon Sandoval and Josh Suggs, who have been here since the beginning, know what it takes to play at The Lab. Their guidance will benefit everyone else on the club, especially the younger players. The entire club will need to be on the same page and keep their emotions in check.
After the heartbreaking draw in El Paso last weekend, United knows how important it is that they find a way to win. Already sitting five points back of division leaders RGV FC, United has to get their play in the final third on track. There were signs of improvement against El Paso, but not enough to get three points.
The Lab has been like a fortress for United since its inception. For them to get the win this weekend, the midfield has to be the engine for the player on the pitch. The link-up play between them and the forwards has left something to be desired so far. Juan Pablo Guzman and Michael Azira can be the catalysts the club needs this weekend.
Players to Watch
Brian Brown – The Jamaican international hasn’t seen much playing time yet in the regular season so far. However, when he is on the pitch, he has improved every time out and provides a great second option besides Sandoval.
Kalen Ryden – With so much still unknown about how the Bold will play this season, Kalen and his leadership will be crucial. One of the most vocal players on the club, Kalen’s voice needs to be heard, and the right reads made to subdue the Bold attack.
Saturday night’s match is scheduled for a 7:30 pm (MDT) kickoff. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+. You can listen live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, online at www.1017theteam.com, and on the TEAM App.