New Mexico United’s home opener against San Diego Loyal SC didn’t quite follow the script. Instead of opening the home slate, they earned a hard-fought point to snap a two-match losing streak. This weekend they’re back on the road in Colorado Springs where historically they’ve been very good.
Over the first four seasons, United has been very successful in Colorado Springs. During that time they put together a 5-2-1 record. But, this isn’t the same Switchbacks club that they’ve faced before. During the 2022 season and the off-season, they lost some of the biggest contributors to their success in the past. Gone are Hadji Barry and Michee Ngalina. Leading the front line for them now is former United man Romario Williams. After a poor 2022 season, Williams is still hoping to rebuild his career and potentially make the move back to MLS or elsewhere. Through 4 appearances, Williams has netted two goals for his new side, potentially proving that his stint with United was a fluke.
Colorado’s problems are two-fold, however. First, they haven’t been very successful at the attacking end. In six matches they’ve scored five goals. Defensively they could not figure out either San Antonio or Sacramento Republic, two of the best clubs in the Western Conference. They lack the ability to close down at times and play themselves out of position, something that could come back to haunt them against United’s wide play.
Player to Watch
Deshane Beckford – Beckford has been a staple in the Western Conference since 2019 when he first came to the USL Championship on loan with Rio Grande Valley. Since then, he’s played a supporting role at both Colorado Springs and San Antonio. Now, with a full contract with the Switchbacks, the Jamaican has a chance to stand out with Williams playing the more physical 9 role. Beckford brings versatility, not as much as Ngalina or Barry though, to a side in need of it after the departures.
United had a lot of positives to take away from their home opener last weekend again San Diego. The biggest perhaps is the much-improved defensive play. Aside from a superbly placed free kick by the visitors, the return of Justin Portillo and better shape by the hosts limited Loyal to only ten shots the entire night. Defensively, United looks to be finding their way back after not dealing well with clubs that liked to play on the counter.
Despite only scoring a single goal, United looked more threatening at times in the final third. Amando Moreno found ways to deliver the ball from the wide areas when Santi Moar couldn’t. One of Moreno’s crosses led to the first half goal. With the ability to send more players out wide, Zach Prince should be able to find more ways to open up opposing defenses in upcoming matches.
Player to Watch
Amando Moreno – Moreno has struggled at times since returning late last season after his torn ACL. Primarily, he looks to get caught up in his head and doesn’t look up. In his appearances so far this year, there’s been marked improvement in that aspect of his game and it was on display against San Diego. Against a side like the Switchbacks, Moreno should be able to play himself into space through the interior channels and draw out the centerbacks.
Saturday evening’s match is set to kickoff at 6 p.m. (MT) from Weidner Field in Colorado Springs. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ domestically and YouTube for international supporters. The match will also be broadcast on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.