United face tough road test against Louisville City FC

As little as one month ago, New Mexico United looked like they would be left out of the playoff race. Since the start of September, though, they’ve won four of five and have forced the door into the postseason open again. They’re arguably playing their best football of the year and have a chance to show more growth against one of the most successful clubs in the history of the USL. 

Louisville City FC has been a perennial favorite to win the League Cup since their debut in 2015. They’ve twice won the League Cup, doing so back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. They’re poised to make the playoffs once again this year, and a single point against United would clinch a berth. With the roster they put together for the 2021 campaign, they are third in the USL in scoring and have allowed the fourth-fewest goals. 

Over their last five matches, they have won twice and drawn three times. Both of the wins came against clubs that are on the verge of elimination from the playoffs, and only one of the draws was against a club in playoff contention. With Cameron Lancaster leading the attack, they always have a chance to pick up points. Lancaster has put together a phenomenal season, scoring 15 goals, and currently sits third in the Golden Boot race. His shot selection is one of the big reasons behind his success. Through 19 appearances, Lancaster has put 59% of his shots (32/54) on target, causing plenty of headaches for opposing keepers. 

Player to Watch

Brian Ownby – The veteran forward continues to have an impact ten years after signing his first professional contract. He’s contributed to twelve goals this season and is a threat in his own right. Typically playing on the wing, he’ll likely be the responsibility of Austin Yearwood to mitigate that threat and prevent him from playing the ball into the box for Lancaster.

Sunday afternoon is a big opportunity for United to show their resolve against a very talented club from the Eastern Conference. This is a match that has been circled as one to watch since before the season began and was chosen for one of the USL matches to be put on a national broadcast. After going toe to toe with El Paso and Colorado Springs this season, it stands that United could be in a good position heading into the match. They’re coming into form, and Louisville City hasn’t been at their peak in recent matches. Even with recent form taken into consideration, United is still a heavy underdog, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

The biggest factor in the outcome of the match on Sunday will be United’s finishing. While they have won three in a row, the finishing still leaves something to be desired. The club has been unable to convert several high xG opportunities leaving their opponents with room to steal results. Against the Louisville defense, off-the-ball movement from Chris Wehan and Amando Moreno will be key to pulling defenders out of position and opening up space in the final third. 

Player to Watch

Alex Tambakis – After picking up his seventh clean sheet of the campaign against RGV FC on Wednesday night, Alex faces arguably his toughest test of the season. Between his xGA and his shot save percentage, Tambakis is outperforming his metrics and could be the key to preventing the hosts from picking up a win on Sunday.

The match on Sunday is set for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff from Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. This match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. Due to NFL programming, the match will not be broadcast by ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM.