For the past month, the Western Conference has had plenty of opportunities to sort out the playoff positions. Yet, week after week the possible outcomes continue to become even more of a mess. While three clubs have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, nine more are still in contention for the final four spots. Among those clubs still fighting are New Mexico United and Las Vegas Lights.
Las Vegas made a strong statement on Tuesday night when they ran roughshod over surging Monterey Bay FC. It was the Danny Trejo and Cal Jennings show as the duo combined for three goals and two assists. The result at the midweek came as a shock given their form coming into the night. They had only won once since July 23rd. It just goes to show that on any given night the Western Conference is up for grabs.
One thing that stood out from the victory was how Trejo was used throughout the match. Trejo was allowed far too much uncontested time on the ball and that allowed the LAFC signing to work his magic, particularly on the final goal of the night. Monterey put themselves into a position similar to what United has shown at times this season. Just ahead of the final goal, the Monterey centrebacks were sucked up into the middle of the pitch, giving Trejo the time and space he needed to make a run behind and get in on goal without a serious threat. Should Trejo and Jennings get another run on Friday, they have the ability to do the same to United.
Player to Watch
Danny Trejo – After impressing early in the campaign, Trejo was officially signed by LAFC in August before being loaned back to Las Vegas. Since his return, Trejo has picked right back up where he left off. With three goals in two appearances, Trejo has given the Lights a big enough push to keep them in the playoff discussion with only a handful of matches remaining.
United comes into the match this Friday with a draw under their belts and two weeks between matches. The draw might give the club some confidence since it came against the top club in the Western Conference, San Antonio FC. For the first time in several weeks, United didn’t look overmatched and held their own. Although they didn’t pick up a much-needed win, they showed that they are still a club that could be a danger in the playoffs. The only thing holding them back is themselves.
The Black & Yellow defeated Las Vegas on the opening weekend of the season, but a lot has changed since then. Both clubs slipped in their form throughout the season and are now struggling to secure a playoff spot. United’s grasp is tenuous at best and this was supposed to be one of the easy matches in a heavy back end of the schedule. Instead, United’s lack of consistency makes this a must-win and a potential trap for the club. In order for them to do so, the centrebacks for United will need to contain Trejo and Jennings by preventing them from having unblocked runs in the defensive half. If they can do that, then there’s a good chance they will be able to pick up a result on the road.
Player to Watch
Jerome Kiesewetter – Off of the injury report for the first time in nearly two months, Kiesewetter could be a key to United grabbing a result. Before getting injured, the forward was finding his stride and being a menace in the final third. His physicality and ability to draw attention, and fouls, from opponents, open up opportunities through set pieces and open play.
Friday night’s match is scheduled to kickoff at Cashman Field at 8:00 p.m. (MST). The match will be streamed live domestically on ESPN+ and internationally on YouTube. The match will also be broadcast locally on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.