Due to the unbalanced conferences in the USL this year, New Mexico United is scheduled to play a three-match series against Rio Grande Valley FC. The first of those matches were supposed to be played on June 22, but due to weather and sod issues, that match had to be postponed until July 6th.
Rescheduling the match gives United the rare opportunity to play a club twice within one week, both times at home. With matches in hand over every other Western Conference side, United has to find a way to take advantage of a club that carries a losing record. RGV comes into the week on a three-match unbeaten run, one better than the hosts. They’re still within striking distance of the playoff line, but time is running out and this club doesn’t seem to have the same level of talent as the one that started the 2021 season as one of the hottest clubs in the league.
Frank Lopez has been leading the attack for the Toros this season and with players like Chelo Martinez supporting him, the expectations were higher. Around them, the inconsistent play has been the weak point for the visitors this season. RGV is a club that, under Wilmer Cabrera this season, has been a bit of a letdown. They’re in the middle of the league in both goals scored and goals allowed this season, with no one really standing out with their play. They do like to get forward as a group and put numbers into the area. United will need to play narrow at the back to prevent RGV from taking advantage of the space.
Player to Watch
Chelo Martinez – Chelo’s return to RGV has been a bit lackluster at times and hasn’t found the back of the net yet. He has gotten his name onto the score sheet with five assists to his credit. His ability to create was evident during his time in the Black & Yellow and will be dangerous in his return.
Despite only having one loss at home this season, United isn’t happy with their results at The Lab. With three draws in six chances, Zach Prince and his club know that the table could look much different had those draws been wins. Turning just those three results into wins would see United comfortably sitting fourth in the west. Instead, United is sitting just above the playoff line and has work to do. This week against RGV provides United with a great opportunity to make up some ground with matches in hand. After an improved performance against Monterey Bay, there’s reason to believe that United can pick up points against the Toros.
The play going forward against Monterey was far better than it was against Birmingham. United looked dangerous and was able to get the ball into threatening positions. One player poised to make an impact during the compact schedule is Cristian Nava. Nava will be able to move the ball forward and force the RGV midfielders into making reactionary decisions, which will lead to them being out of position. Look for Nava to push the tempo and drive the line forward.
Player to Watch
Alex Tambakis – While RGV isn’t a major scoring threat, they have enough talent to force saves out of opposing keepers. Alex’s play over the past two months has been solid and has singlehandedly saved United at the end of a number of matches. Tambakis will need to be at the top of his game during this stretch of games, beginning with RGV.
Wednesday night’s match is scheduled to kickoff from The Lab at 7 p.m. (Mountain). The match will be streamed domestically on ESPN+ and on YouTube for international viewers. The live radio broadcast will also be carried on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.