New Mexico United’s (1-1-0) trip to Oakland fell short of expectations as they fell by a final score of 1-0. The counterattack of the Oakland Roots proved to be too much for the Black & Yellow when Johnny Rodriguez capitalized on a defensive miscue.
The Saturday evening clash was forced to relocate due to issues with Oakland’s home pitch and saw the two sides take the field at Pioneer Stadium. Between the turf field causing issues with the ball throughout the night and the questionable refereeing, the stage was set for something adverse to happen.
For a time it seemed as though each time United pushed forward, the ball would take a strange bounce off of the turf or the referee was able to stop play with his whistle. Within the first half hour, the referee showed three yellow cards to members of United for seemingly inexplicable reasons. With two players being among the recipients, United needed to try and settle into the match before anyone received a second card. From an attacking standpoint, the best attack for United came in the 19th minute as a result of a ball off the foot of Santi Moar. Moar drove into the left channel and attempted a left-footed shot that not only caromed off of the left post, but hit a lip on the turf and nearly slide into the net as a result.
All night long, the Roots were able to play well off of the counter and at times looked as though they would break through United’s back three. Kalen Ryden was caught out a few times, but the stand-up play of Will Seymore kept United from conceding before halftime.
Just past the hour mark, Oakland finally struck. Dariusz Formella got onto a run that forced Alex Tambakis to come off of his line and chase the forward to the left of the goal. Formella deftly played the ball back into the middle of the area, while four United players crashed toward the goal line, where Johnny Rodriguez was left all alone. Without anyone to close him down, Rodriguez neatly slotted the ball into the center of the goal for the 1-0 lead.
In the 71st minute, Justin Portillo was sent off after picking up his second yellow card of the evening. His first had only come minutes into the second half, and the latter was seen as a rather soft foul. Even so, since he had picked up the earlier card, the referee was left with little choice but to show the second. Down to 10 men, United wasn’t able to pose much more of an attacking threat and managed to keep Oakland from scoring again.
Player of the Match
Will Seymore – Seymore looked solid and kept United from falling behind earlier in the match than they did. An impressive stat line for the defender shows why United opted to bring him back for another season. Five tackles, three clearances, and three interceptions is a noteworthy performance for any player.
United returns to play on Tuesday night, April 4 when they take on UDA in the second round of the 2023 U.S. Open Cup. The change in format means the USL clubs enter the tournament a round sooner than in 2022. This match will be hosted by United at Rio Rancho High School, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. (MT).