New Mexico United came into the weekend looking to end a three-match losing streak. They looked as though they were more than capable of doing so early in the match. However, a late equalizer from the visiting Rio Grande Valley Toros ended that as the sides finished with another 2-2 draw.
Even though the media had spoken to new Head Coach Eric Quill earlier in the week, no one knew what to expect from his side in their first showing. With only a handful of training sessions available to them and some injury concerns, there were a number of questions needing answers.
Throughout the opening twenty-five minutes, United clearly had the upper hand on the visitors. With decisive passing, United was able to get RGV out of shape and chase the ball instead of being able to close down on whoever had it. The players were responding well to whatever had been said to them throughout the week.
Very much against the run of play, the Toros took the lead just before half time. After Alex Tambakis attempted to play the ball out to the midfield, a header went back to Harry Swartz who got trapped and tried to draw a foul near the United bench. Instead of being awarded the foul, Swartz gave the ball away to RGV midfielder Ian Cerro. Cerro wound his way into the box before forcing a save out of Tambakis. The rebound fell to Wilmer Cabrera who was able to slot home into the bottom right corner, 1-0.
United let their heads drop for a few minutes after the goal, but they soon settled back in and continued to dominate possession. In the 36th forward Greg Hurst drew a foul just outside of the box, giving United a free kick in a dangerous spot. Without Chris Wehan, the chance was given to Justin Portillo. Once settled, Hurst ran over the ball, and Portillo drove his right-footed shot into the top left corner of the goal for the equalizer, 1-1.
As the evening progressed, the tactics of Quill didn’t become any more clear, but what did was that players were seemingly given the license to move where they deemed necessary. With that in mind, Austin Yearwood and Daniel Bruce both found themselves in the position of forward multiple times. Early on, United tried to play the ball over the top to Bruce who couldn’t quite bring it down the first time, but in the 43rd he was able to.
At the top of United’s formation, Bruce took a pass from Sergio Rivas and with ease chipped the ball over the RGV keeper to put United up 2-1. The goal for the Englishman came in what was his 100th league appearance for the club, the first player in club history to accomplish that feat.
“I’m proud to hear that because that’s that’s a style that I like to play,” said Quill. “That’s part of what I believe is the football that wins championships. Now, I’ve got to look at the real numbers: of what the verticality in the possession looks like instead of just, front-half possession versus back half. But what I saw was guys moving more to support each other, guys playing one and two touches and that and then combining off of each other combination play that’s the stuff that’s going to… yield results because the combination play can really kill front half pressure.”
United appeared to be well on their way to securing three points for Quill in his debut, but as has become the norm for this series, a late goal would factor into the outcome.
In the 86th minute, Christian Pinzon found a way to square the match. In a moment where Yearwood was slightly out of position, a cross came in from Tomas Ritondale looking for Pinzon. Yearwood attempted to back into the play, but mistimed his leap, allowing Pinzon to head the ball into the net, 2-2.
Player of the Match
Daniel Bruce – In his 100th league appearance for the club, the first in club history to do so, Bruce was dynamic throughout the night. He capped off his night with a goal at the end of the first half and was a force to be reckoned with.
United gets back on the pitch in a hurry as they return to play on Wednesday night. The second of a three-match homestand sees United welcome rival Phoenix Rising to The Lab in a midweek clash. Wednesday night’s affair will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. Radio coverage on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will start at 6:00 p.m. with the pre-game show starring Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman. The pair will bring you up to date on everything United as well as every minute of every play on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, via The TEAM apps, and The TEAM website.