While third place in the Mountain Division is likely out of reach within the time remaining, three clubs are still scrambling to try and secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the division. The results from around the division on Saturday provided United with some much-needed help as both Austin Bold and Rio Grande Valley lost in their respective matches. Those results leave the three clubs within two points of each other. United also now has a match in hand on both of them before the match this weekend gets played.
San Diego Loyal is another first-time opponent for United, and they come into the weekend needing four points to clinch a playoff berth. For Landon Donovan’s club, losing the first four matches of the season lit a fire under them and since then, they’ve been one of the best clubs in the entire Western Conference. Despite their record inside of the Pacific Division, outside of it, they are winless. In each of those matchups, they lost to Rio Grande Valley, Louisville, and Real Monarchs. Whether or not that bodes well for United remains to be seen.
After winning four of five, Loyal flying high and feature several players that United is familiar with. Corey Hertzog and Jack Blake have played a part in a combined thirteen goals for the Loyal so far this season. Veteran players of their caliber bring a lot to a squad and improve it just by having them involved.
Player to Watch
Jack Blake – Blake spent a few years within the Monarchs organization and was a player that has caused problems for United in past seasons. A box-to-box midfielder, he’s capable of making an impact at both ends of the pitch.
United’s chances are running out. They were handed a lifeline before the match with San Diego and at this juncture, even a single point would benefit them. A single point moves them back into the playoff positions, with a favorable schedule to close out the regular season. In order to pick up that point, they’ll need to overcome their poor road form. With eight losses in fourteen road matches, they have never been able to regain their road form from 2020.
The biggest thing that continues to be lacking is consistency. United hasn’t performed well enough against out-of-division opponents. Out of a possible twenty-one points United has only earned six. Against what is likely the hardest remaining opponent on their schedule, United has to find a way to go against multiple trends; losing on the road and not creating enough chances.
Player to Watch
Sergio Rivas – Rivas has shown the ability to transition from attack to defending with the best in the league. He has attacking vision and can create opportunities for those around him. He’s also an incredibly versatile defender who will be charged with helping contain Loyal players like Blake.
Sunday’s match is scheduled to kickoff from Torero Stadium at 4 p.m. (MT). The match will be streamed live domestically on ESPN+.