For the second time in club history, New Mexico United gets to play host to a club from across this pond. In 2019, Cardiff City made the long trip to Albuquerque for an international friendly. This time it’s historic Sunderland AFC making the journey to the Land of Enchantment.
Sunderland has a storied history within the annals of English football. From the highs of winning league titles to the lows of relegation battles, the club has endured numerous ups and downs over the years. Founded in 1879, Sunderland AFC is one of the oldest football clubs in England. The club quickly rose through the ranks, achieving its first major success in 1892 by winning the Football League title. Over the years, Sunderland experienced periods of glory, clinching a total of six league titles, with their most recent triumph in 1936. They also won the FA Cup twice, in 1937 and 1973, etching their name into football folklore.
In recent years, Sunderland faced a tumultuous period as they struggled to maintain their top-flight status. Relegation from the Premier League in 2017 marked the beginning of a challenging journey for the Black Cats. Despite their best efforts, the club suffered consecutive relegations and found themselves in League One, the third tier of English football, for the 2018-2019 season. The struggles of the revered club were well documented in the Netflix documentary Sunderland Til I Die.
League One became the battleground for Sunderland’s resurgence. Under the leadership of manager Jack Ross, the team displayed an unwavering determination to rise again. The passionate support from the club’s loyal fans, who continued to fill the Stadium of Light, proved instrumental in inspiring the players.
In the 2018-2019 season, Sunderland reached the EFL Trophy final, narrowly missing out on victory. However, they secured promotion back to the Championship after finishing fifth in the league. The following season, under the management of Phil Parkinson, the club reached the League One play-off final but narrowly missed out on promotion.
In the 2020-2021 season, Sunderland underwent a significant overhaul with the arrival of manager Lee Johnson. With a renewed sense of purpose, the Black Cats enjoyed a strong campaign, finishing fourth in the league. Although they were unable to secure promotion, the team demonstrated resilience and a newfound attacking prowess that bodes well for the future. The 2022-2023 season saw the Black Cats come within a match of fighting for promotion back into the Premier League, falling just short in the Championship Playoff Semifinals.
Heading into the 2023-2024 season, Sunderland and their supporters are hoping for another run to at least the playoffs, if not an automatic promotion. Now in their pre-season, the club is touring North America and heading into Albuquerque having already faced defending USL Champions San Antonio FC. Sunderland are continuing to build on their fitness as the EFL Championship season is only weeks away.
Player to Watch
Ross Stewart – Sunderland’s leading scorer in the 22-23 season returns once again and will likely be the target man up top. The Black Cats will want to get him off the mark early in the season in order to get themselves into a groove. With it being preseason, there’s just as good of a chance that he sees a full ninety as there is he could see forty-five minutes.
New Mexico United looking to make its mark internationally once again. In 2019 the Black and Yellow fought to a 1-1 draw with Cardiff City and this time it will be a more difficult test. While it is only a friendly, United knows that this is a chance for the club to garner international attention. It’s also a chance for the two newest faces to make a debut.
After three wins in four, United’s front office wasn’t content to sit on its laurels. Two new faces have joined the club, both young and looking to make an impact. With the departure of Alex Waggoner imminent, United had to make a move. Two forwards have been signed, both with international playing experience.
First was Jacobo Reyes, brought in on loan from Rayados in Liga MX. Then came Isaac Zuleta, a transfer from Getafe in La Liga. Both players could make their debuts on Wednesday night in the friendly against Sunderland AFC. With the match being a friendly, it’s hard to know who will play or for how long, considering that United has a match at the weekend against Western Conference leaders, Sacramento Republic FC.
Player to Watch
Isaac Zuleta – The newest face on the club, Zuleta brings a lot of experience to the pitch having spent his entire career within the Getafe senior system. A dynamic forward, he could see significant time in the coming weeks and months as United continues to push for the playoffs.
Wednesday night’s international friendly against Sunderland AFC will kickoff from The Lab at 7:00 p.m. (MT). Broadcast coverage of the match will begin on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM at 6:00 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pre-game show. The pair will bring you every minute of every play through the end of the match. ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM’s broadcast can be heard on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM apps, and The TEAM website.