New Mexico United has been here before, David facing off against Goliath. Back in 2019, the fledgling club upended two MLS sides on their way to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup. Now they are no longer an unknown entity heading into a Round of 32 match against another MLS team, Austin FC.
One of eight remaining USL clubs in this round of the tournament, United has a chance to improve their record against the MLS to 3-1 all-time in the tournament. Given how the club looked at the end of the Orange County match a few weeks ago, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that United could advance to the Round of 16. After weeks of lackluster play, the side came out and showed a tremendous amount of confidence in the two matches that week, with the offense running through Josh Dolling.
Dolling, playing a sometimes-nine, sometimes-10 role, against Orange County found numerous opportunities to influence the outcome of that match. Across the pitch, United played with confidence and looked like world beaters.
As heard on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM during his weekly segment, club president and CEO Peter Trevisani was optimistic about the opportunity that United has against Austin FC. “We’re in the final 32 in the country. We’ve got a great team with amazing athletes. We have a real chance to go out and show the rest of the country what we can do.”
Defensively, United went with two wingbacks, which provided them with the ability to rotate wider, while still maintaining at least three inside the goal area. This formation forced Orange County to try and play more narrow, which limited their ability to penetrate United’s defense. Against an Austin FC club that has struggled to score, this could be the key to United advancing.
Player to Watch
Josh Dolling – United’s man of the cup so far has been nothing short of spectacular. The new forward has four goals to his name and is really finding a groove in Zach Prince’s system. He’s finding holes in defenses and setting up teammates around him as well as finding space inside the area from which he can be a scoring threat.
Austin FC is in a bit of a conundrum. After finishing 2022 in second place in the MLS Western Conference and making it all the way to the semifinals of the playoffs, they’ve fallen off drastically in terms of form in 2023. Some of that is due to injury concerns to some of their top talent. Both Sebastián Driussi and Owen Wolff recently sustained injuries that will keep them out of action for some time. How much an impact this will make on Austin’s attack is unclear though, as nearly half of their goals have come from former Atlanta United defender Jon Gallagher.
Another area of concern for Austin is its defending. Through ten games, the Texas club has surrendered sixteen goals on fifty-six shots faced. This means that opponents are finding ways to generate good looks at goal and converting them with regularity. Brad Stuver has faced the fourth most number of shots in the MLS so far this season and is allowing over 1.5 goals per match. He’ll need help from the defenders in front of him if Austin hopes to stave off crashing out of another tournament this season.
Player to Watch
Daniel Pereira – The young Venezuelan has been one of the few players for Austin to play every minute of every match this season. Primarily a central midfielder, Pereira is going to be crucial to slowing down United through the middle of the pitch on Wednesday night. As a box-to-box player, Pereira can do a lot of what Austin needs, but will need help with the midfield being extremely thin right now.
Wednesday night’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 7 p.m. (MT) from Q2 Stadium in Austin. There will be no radio broadcast of the match due to rights being held by another entity. You can follow the action live on the 101.7 The TEAM Twitter feed as we live-tweet the match. ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM radio coverage of New Mexico United will return on Saturday, May 13 with Scott Galetti and Andy Hageman on the call.
In other United news, former New Mexico United Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne was named the new Head Coach of the New York Red Bulls through the end of the 2023 season. Lesesne’s Red Bulls picked up a win in his first match at the helm in the Open Cup on Tuesday night, defeating D.C. United 1-0.