The match between New Mexico United and Phoenix Rising FC was as eventful as ever, with the former ultimately triumphing 2-1 to progress to the next round of the Open Cup. This was the third time the two teams had met in the competition, and tensions were high throughout the game, which saw a number of contentious incidents.
New Mexico, who had previously played all their Open Cup matches away from home, was finally able to host a game at their own stadium, with local youngster Alex Waggoner making his first career start and impressing up front. However, chances were few and far between for both teams in the first half, with set pieces the main source of danger for Phoenix Rising.
With no shots on target allowed by United in the first half, Ford Parker looked to have his area secured. “I thought we kept the ball pretty well. I thought JP (Justin Portillo) got on the ball a lot, which took a lot of the pressure off of us.”
It was New Mexico who eventually broke the deadlock, with Daniel Bruce setting up Greg Hurst to score just before halftime. The Englishman sliced his way through the Rising defenders for the second time in as many minutes. Instead of taking the attempt himself, Bruce laid the ball off to Hurst who slotted home in the 43rd for the lead, 1-0. This was followed by a heated exchange between the two sides, which saw Baboucarr Njie sent off for kicking out at Bruce. Despite being down to ten men, Phoenix Rising came out strong in the second half and was later rewarded with an equalizer from Carlos Harvey.
The attacking efforts from Rising intensified as the match went on. They pressed United and were effective on the counterattack. In the 77th, Rising drew a foul twenty-five yards out from goal, nearly straight ahead. The ensuing freekick went off of the crossbar and fell back to Rising. The follow-up attempt on goal was parried away by Parker, but the Sandia graduate couldn’t fight back the second shot, which Harvey put into the net to equalize, 1-1.
However, New Mexico responded with a goal from substitute Josh Dolling in the 87th minute. The goal came after Dolling collected a deflection by the Rising keeper before the forward buried the ball in the back of the net. The fourth goal of the tournament for Dolling secured a hard-fought victory in front of a crowd of 4,126.
“What you guys saw tonight, was confidence. That is quite a bit different from motivation or fire,” said Zach Prince. “You can be as eager as you want to, but if you’re not confident, it can go quite a bit different. They (the players) were confident together and in each other tonight.”
Player of the Match
Josh Dolling – Dolling didn’t have much time on the pitch, but he made the most of it. In his brief appearance, Dolling put himself in position to be dangerous multiple times. His actions directly led to him picking up his fourth goal of the tournament and the match winner against Rising.
United will learn who their opponent will be in the Round of 32 after the draw at noon (MT) tomorrow on the Bleacher Report app. Beyond that, United returns to action with another home match on Saturday, April 29 against Orange County SC. That match will kickoff at 7 p.m. (MT) from The Lab.