Week four of the USL Championship season is here and New Mexico United is finally set to play its second match of the season. it was two weeks ago that they opened the season on the east coast, and now they’re heading west to take on Oakland Roots SC.
Oakland’s early season hasn’t quite been what they hoped for. After opening the season with two consecutive road matches, they returned home only to postpone their opener due to field issues and are being forced to host United at a local college. For a club that was hoping to get off to a fast start, things just haven’t worked out. A season-opening loss to San Antonio and a draw with RGV have the Roots near the bottom and looking up.
Roots supporters are looking for a big season out of Dariusz Formella. After a lackluster 2022 season, it stands to reason that Formella could be poised for a big season. The biggest issue for the Roots is that they have to be able to put the ball into the right areas in order for Formella to take advantage of it. If the slow start continues, it may be a while before they find their stride.
Player to Watch
Paul Blanchette – The man between the sticks for the Roots is arguably the player to watch against United. United’s attack showed throughout the preseason that they were a formidable force to deal with. With multiple options heading into the area, Blanchette will have to not only manage his defensive front but also show that he can make the right reads to keep United out of goal.
For all their attacking options, New Mexico United with be without one of their engines. The news came out earlier this week that 19-year-old Cristian Nava will be out for the remainder of the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during training. While the Academy graduate will be missed, United should still have plenty of drive from the midfield. Between Sergio Rivas in the middle and Santi Moar on the wing, the attack has the potential to flow forward.
The defensive third is where United will win this match though. The strong start against The Miami FC was a departure from how the 2022 season went for the Black & Yellow. Kalen Ryden looked as good as ever. Will Seymore was strong at the back as well. Perhaps the best performance of the season opener was that of Sam Hamilton. Sliding into the defensive midfield, Hamilton can shut down Oakland Roots on Saturday evening and prevent them from reaching the area.
Player to Watch
Greg Hurst – The Phoenix Rising transfer had a quiet night during the opener. He lacked opportunities and service to put him in places to potentially get off the mark. Against a Roots back line that hasn’t looked stellar so far, Hurst can take advantage of his height and look for balls to come in from the wings.
Saturday night’s match against Oakland Roots SC is set to kickoff at 8 p.m. (MT) from Cal State University, East Bay. The match can b e streamed live on ESPN+ domestically and on YouTube internationally. Locally, the match will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.