New Mexico United earned a 1-0 victory on the road against The Miami FC thanks to a late penalty conversion by Justin Portillo.
Unlike years past when the season opener started off shaky for United, the match against Miami was anything but. Zach Prince’s side worked the wide areas with confidence and looked composed on and off the ball. Santi Moar and Harry Swartz tried to drive the action into the final third, looking for opportunities to deliver the ball to newcomer Greg Hurst. As strong as the showing was, the attempts on goal were few in number. They managed three shots, two of which remained on frame, but didn’t truly test Miami keeper Adrian Zendejas.
Defensively, United looked prepared for what Miami wanted to do. The back three of Kalen Ryden, Will Seymore, and Austin Yearwood easily handled the threats from the hosts. The fluidity of the back line forced Miami into wider areas than they would have liked.
Out of the break, United never wavered. There wasn’t a flat start and the defensive attention to detail kept up with the play of Miami. United stifled the hosts until the 65th minute when they finally got a decent attempt on goal. Even with the brief stint of possession, Miami couldn’t make anything out of it.
Just as the evening seemed headed for a draw, a Josh Suggs cross was handled by Paco Craig in the box, giving United a penalty. Set-piece specialist Justin Portillo was given the nod for the first attempt of 2023. The take was never in doubt. Closing down his hips at the last second, Zendejas went the wrong way as Portillo sent the ball into the left side of the goal, securing the win and three points to open the season.
Man of the Match
Sam Hamilton – Although his performance won’t end up on many stat sheets, Hamilton acquitted himself well in the season opener. Wearing the armband, Hamilton was all over the pitch making plays and disrupting what Miami was trying to do. His play helped to lock down the midfield against a talented Miami side.
New Mexico supporters will have a bit of a wait before they are able to cheer for their side again. United benefits from another early break in the schedule before they return to play on April 1. When they do get back on the pitch, they will be facing Western Conference foe Oakland Roots SC at Laney Football Stadium.