Meow Wolf has never been good to New Mexico United. Winless each time the promo night had come around before, United finally put a dent in the stat line of the best defensive club in the league as they won handily 3-0 over Sacramento Republic FC.
Once again, the night started off well for the hosts as United put some early pressure on one of the best defenses in the entire USL. With Daniel Bruce playing up top once again, United was looking to play direct. The long balls over the top of the Sacramento defense allowed Bruce the opportunity to run at the defenders and even if he didn’t get the ball, make them uncomfortable as they faced their own goal.
Sacramento certainly had their chances in the first half but couldn’t find a way past Alex Tambakis. Even after what appeared to be a blatantly missed offside call against the visitors, they couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
Republic entered the night with the league’s best defense, having allowed 12 goals all season and never more than one in a single match. They were also one of the best goalscoring clubs as well, with 31 goals to their credit. But it wasn’t enough to stop a surging United.
United supporters aren’t used to seeing goals go in the club’s favor during the closing minutes of any half, but tonight they were treated to a beauty. For what felt like the dozenth time in the half, Amando Moreno made a run to the end line trying to draw Sacramento defenders with him. This time, in the 45th minute, he squared the ball to Harry Swartz at the far side of the goal. Swartz deftly pivoted to his left and as he was falling, put a strike on the ball that sliced it past Republic keeper Danny Vitiello for the match opener, 1-0.
Just when it looked like Sacramento might be finding their legs in the match, United’s Moreno decided it was time to try and end the visitors’ hopes. After another long ball over the top to Bruce in the 57th, Sergio Rivas strode across the center of the pitch to find Moreno on the left of the box. Moreno’s first step was too much for the visitors and his left-footed attempt skipped past Vitiello once again, 2-0.
Minutes later Bruce would try a strike of his own in the 60th. Although his attempt was blocked, the ball fell to recent signing Nicky Hernandez. Hernandez has been on a tear for United since joining and didn’t miss this opportunity. He stepped into the ball as it was falling and on the volley, piped it into the back left corner of the net, 3-0.
Sacramento just looked lost at times. Between their inability to contain the runs of United and the defensive efforts of Sam Hamilton, they didn’t have any answers for United at The Lab. United had other opportunities, but as they saw out the match, the club was looking for another elusive clean sheet. They nearly lost it late in the match, but heroics from Alex Tambakis secure the third clean sheet in four matches as United climbs back above the playoff line.
Of note tonight was the play of Josh Suggs. In the 8th minute, play was stopped as Suggs officially passed the 20,000 minute mark in USL regular season play. Suggs became one of the first five players in history to do so and played a full ninety minute for the first time this season.
Player of the Match
Amando Moreno – The El Salvadoran has been a terror of late. He continues to look better every week and with a performance like he had tonight, he should see Team of the Week honors. Another goal and assist to his credit and El Sayajin is well on his way to another national team call up.
United closes out the month of July on the road when they travel to face Orange County SC. That match will take place on Saturday, July 29 from Championship Soccer Stadium. That match will kickoff at 8 p.m.(MT). Broadcast coverage will begin at 7 p.m. on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and TEAM apps with the pre-game show.