After New Mexico United’s Open Cup run ended this week, Zach Prince turned his club’s attention back to league play. Without the tournament to focus on, the first opponent up for United is a familiar one, Monterey Bay FC.
Having already faced each other once this season, United has an opportunity to get a measure of revenger. The first time out, Monterey Bay cruised to a 4-2 win over the Black & Yellow. Cristian Volesky and Sam Gleadle took full advantage of the inability of United to defend at all three levels and ran circles around them. The pair both found ways to exploit gaps between United defenders leading to easy opportunities inside the area.
Dating back to that match, Monterey is unbeaten in five matches despite surrendering seven goals in those five matches. For a club that tends to hold possession nearly 50% of the time, there is some amount of concern about their play at the back. they are a club that is somewhat thin at the back and perhaps they lack enough time together with either keeper on the club’s roster to be truly cohesive. Even with that, they remain a solid contender to hold down a playoff spot as the season progresses.
Player to Watch
Sam Gleadle – Gleadle was an absolute terror for United to deal with in the prior meeting. Gleadle’s vision and passing put his teammates in excellent position throughout the night and his defensive transition helped ease the process for Monterey.
New Mexico’s biggest issue isn’t talent. The problem is the consistency with which they play. Prior to last week, United looked confident in two matches at The Lab. On the road though, they’ve been unable to look even remotely the same. On the road, United is currently 1-3-1 while conceding nine goals. At home, United is 1-0-1 and has scored five goals. The home field advantage theory seems to accurately describe this club. Returning to The Lab, as well as the return of Chris Wehan, bodes well for United.
Wehan last saw competitive minutes in the match against Monterey, where he picked up the opening goal of the night. Although he did return to play in the Open Cup, Beez will step onto the field at The Lab for the first time this season. One of the more creative midfielders on the club, Wehan should help provide a spark and open up some passing lanes for the forwards on Saturday night.
Defensively, United has a lot of work to do. Channels are being left clear, players are going unmarked, and large gaps are being left between the midfield and the defenders. Each of these issues has contributed to some of United’s woes so far. The play has been somewhat surprising given how veteran the back line is and how long they’ve been playing together. Kalen Ryden will need to marshal the forces on Saturday for United to pick up a win.
Player to Watch
Andres Robles – One of United’s academy products, the young man made his league debut the other night and impressed in limited minutes. He showed the ability to play wide and send the ball into the goal area with a beautiful cross that led to a goal.
Saturday evening’s match is scheduled to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. (MT) from The Lab. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ domestically and on YouTube internationally. Scott Galetti and Andy Hageman will be on the call for ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.