Confidence was the word of the day for New Mexico United after the Open Cup win on Wednesday. Zach Prince’s message didn’t seem to stray far from that going into the match against Orange County SC. The club rode that wave to a dominant 3-1 victory on Saturday night.
Across the board, United came out with a sense of urgency and they bent Orange County to their will repeatedly through the evening. In a change from prior outings, Prince went with two forwards starting both newcomers Josh Dolling and Greg Hurst up top. That change made all the difference in the world for United.
From the earliest moments in the match, Dolling’s movement on and off the ball was a nightmare for Orange County to deal with. In the 22nd minute, Justin Portillo lofted the ball forward where both Dolling and the OCSC defender Markus Nakkim were waiting for it. Nakkim was actually able to bring the ball down, but Dolling stepped in to take it off of him. Chesting the ball down, Hurst picked it up in stride and slotted the ball to Cody Cropper’s right-hand side and into the back of the net to give United the lead, 1-0.
From there United continued to play aggressively as they sought to extend the lead before the end of the first half. Offensive opportunities were few, but defensively United had plenty of chances to shine. Working the left touchline for much of the evening, Harry Swartz put on a clinic. On multiple occasions, he stood up Orange County attackers with perfect tackles, preventing the visitors from gaining access to the wide areas of the pitch.
Orange County would give themselves a glimmer of hope in the second half when they hit a stroke of luck. In the 58th, OC pushed their way into the final third which allowed Lasse Nielsen a chance to go heads-up with Alex Tambakis. Nielsen looked to go right, but a diving effort from the United keeper deftly kept the ball out of the net momentarily. Deflected off of the hand of Tambakis, the ball popped up and off of the head of Josh Suggs, and straight back into the net for an equalizer, 1-1.
Historically, this has been the type of moment where United would drop their heads and lose control of the match. That wasn’t the case tonight. United’s confidence shone through and with the introduction of sub Amando Moreno into the match, business picked right back up. Moments after entering, Moreno intercepted a pass on the OC side of the pitch and immediately found Dolling. A quick turn and nutmeg of Nakkim connected Dolling to Hurst at the edge of the goal area. From just beyond the penalty mark, Hurst chose to go bottom right corner and retook the lead for United, 2-1.
United put the nail in the coffin for the match in the 73rd after forcing another turnover in Orange County’s defensive half. Sam Hamilton elevated up and over Alex Villanueva to win a header and once again found Dolling. With his head up, Dolling saw the run of Sergio Rivas off the left wing and played the ball out wide. Using his right foot, Rivas went back across the face of the goal and shook the back right corner for the final goal of the night and the win, 3-1.
Man of the Match
Josh Dolling – Dolling was a menace all night for OC and rightly so. His vision and movement played a major role in all three goals. His performance was a historic one for United as he became the first player to get three assists in a single match for the club and the 25th player in USL Championship league history to do so.
“It can take a little while to adapt when you come to a new club,” said Dolling after the match. “It can take a little while to adapt when you come to a new club. I got a good string of minutes together, got my confidence back, and feel good playing right now.”
Free from a midweek, United will return to action on Friday, May 5 when they travel to RGV. That match will kickoff from H-E-B Park at 6:00 p.m. (MT).