Confidence is the word of the week for New Mexico United. After picking up a win over rivals Phoenix Rising in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, the Black & Yellow are looking confident as they welcome in Orange County SC.
After the midweek win, Head Coach and Technical Director Zach Prince felt like that was the difference for his club. “What you guys saw tonight (Wednesday), I think what you saw tonight was confidence. That is quite a bit different from motivation or fire. If you’re not confident in those tough moments, it becomes really difficult for you.”
Now, United has to carry that over into the weekend clash at The Lab. Orange County only has one win on the season, but they bring with them a strong roster, including players like Milan and Brian Iloski. Milan, the forward, is the reigning USL Golden Boot winner after notching twenty-two goals in 2022. While Iloski won’t outpace many players, he is the target man for OCSC. The squad around him is more than capable of putting the ball well within his reach at any point in time.
The California-based club has struggled in defense this season. They’ve allowed ten goals through seven matches so far and while using two different keepers. Against United, they will need to remain compact and force United into the wide areas. Every goal allowed this season has come from inside the goal area. When they’re able to force the attack to come from outside the box, their opponents have been held goalless.
Player to Watch
Milan Iloski – It goes without saying that Iloski is the man to watch. He’s a player that can score from different angles and without much space. United has been burned by Iloski in the past and the efforts of the United centrebacks will be crucial on Saturday.
In two appearances at The Lab this calendar year, United is unbeaten and will look to maintain that record. The club’s confidence level appears higher when they’re at home compared to on the road and the results have born that out so far. Defensively, they allowed zero shots on target in the first half against Phoenix Rising on Wednesday and had tightened up their rotations.
Offensively, they received a spark from Daniel Bruce, who made two slicing runs in the first half and led to the first goal. The problem for United is that they may be without the Englishman for a few weeks after he picked up a possible broken arm during that match. Someone will need to step up and fill a more creative role in order to break down the OCSC defense. By finding ways to do that and put the ball at the feet of the strikers, United can pull out a win on Saturday.
Player to Watch
Justin Portillo – Since returning from his suspension, Portillo has been a big piece of what Prince wants to do in transition. Portillo’s ability to turn on the ball and play it into the danger area could be just what this side needs in order to pick up their second league win of the season.
Saturday night’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. (MT) from The Lab. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ and YouTube for international viewers. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.