Don’t look now, but New Mexico United seems to be heating up. Now on a three-match unbeaten run, with seven goals in that span, the Black & Yellow may be coming out of the early season doldrums. It may not seem like it, but the match on Wednesday against Loudoun United will be a good barometer for how much progress has been made.
Like New Mexico, Loudoun joined the USL in 2019 as an expansion side but came in as an affiliate for MLS club D.C. United. The working relationship seemed rocky at best between the two entities, with the parent club often stripping the USL side of its best pieces, leaving Loudoun to flounder out of contention for playoff berths. Finishing at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in each of its first four seasons, Loudoun wasn’t expected to be considered a contender in 2023. Then in February 2023, the news came down that D.C. United was selling off a majority share of ownership. Attain Sports and Entertainment took over and have largely been left to their own devices. This offseason the ownership of Loudoun made the decision to sign Hugo Fauroux and Zach Ryan.
Ryan has had the biggest impact of the season so far. Through seven appearances, the former Red Bulls Academy prospect has found the back of the net five times, proving to be a playmaker for his new side. Head Coach Ryan Martin has taken to the young forward and is actively trying to find ways to get him involved. Martin’s tactics have evolved and Loudoun has looked dangerous in every game they’ve been a part of this season.
Player to Watch
Jeremy Garay – A box-to-box midfielder, Garay fills a variety of needs for Martin’s coaching style. While he’s not been much of a threat in the attacking third, he provides stability and a transition point for Loudoun to get forward.
Back at The Lab on Saturday night, New Mexico got the best out of Taos native Alex Waggoner en route to a 2-1 win in the rematch over Monterey Bay FC. The youth of United has been one of the biggest talking points for this club over the past season, with the emergence of Cristian Nava in 2022 and now Waggoner has his chance to take the spotlight in his home state.
As heard on his weekly segment on TEAM talk on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, club owner Peter Trevisani had nothing but praise for Waggoner. “Alex is a great young man and we had a chance to bring him into our academy system, which is our full scholarship system where we try to get the best 15 to 19-year-olds in our state together. He joined that group and he won the Golden Boot in the playoffs for the academy. Seven or eight games in, he was already making an impact. So, you know, this year we brought him to preseason and liked what he could do. We’re giving him an opportunity and he’s seizing it.”
Even playing with 10 men after the red card to Sam Hamilton, Zach Prince’s club maintained their composure for the final thirty-five minutes and held off one of the top clubs in the Western Conference. United has had a lot of key defensive moments already this year, perhaps none bigger than Will Seymore’s against Monterey Bay.
The veteran presence of Seymore and Kalen Ryden will be key against a Loudoun side that has shown that they can score against some of the best clubs in the league. Shutting down the box through rotation and deeper drops from Justin Portillo will be something to watch for on Wednesday night.
Player to Watch
Amando Moreno – Coming off of one of his better performances of the year, Moreno looked far more composed on the ball than he had in his prior outings. He was decisive and drove at Monterey defenders, putting himself in a position to assist on the Sergio Rivas goal. Moreno has the ability to be a creator for United in the final third and can create issues in the defensive third for Loudoun.
Coverage for the match on Wednesday begins at 4:00 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pre-game show. Kickoff will follow at 5:00 p.m. (MT) on 101.7 FM ESPN Radio The TEAM, 1017theteam.com, and The TEAM app. The match will also be streamed on ESPN+ domestically and YouTube internationally.