United tries to right the ship in San Diego

United tries to right the ship in San Diego

No matter what sport it is, teams go through ups and downs every year. After a lackluster start to the season, New Mexico United made a coaching change. Even under the new leadership, a five-match unbeaten run came to a crashing halt and the club is now mired in a losing streak with time running out on the season.

Things had been looking up for United under the watchful eye of new Head Coach Eric Quill. But three consecutive losses have the club back outside of the playoff picture. While the loss to San Antonio was somewhat expected, the prior two were almost inexplicable. Now, with another tough matchup against San Diego this weekend, United heads into the match with Quill at the helm due to two yellow cards against San Antonio.

Even if Quill were to be on the touchline for the match this weekend, United’s schedule remains one of the hardest in the league to close out the year. Loyal has been one of the steadiest clubs in the league since their arrival. They’re consistently pushing the results and are once again near the top of the Western Conference. Each year, they’ve just reloaded on talent, this season being no different. The strength of this club is its attacking presence, led by Ronaldo Damus and Evan Conway. The pair of forwards always seem to find a way to be in a dangerous position.

As dangerous as the forwards are, the chance creation all comes from the midfield. Veteran players like Collin Martin, Nick Moon, and Charlie Adams are among the biggest factors in the club’s success. By spreading the field, they create mismatches and are able to take advantage of mistakes by their opponents. United’s recent lack of control over the midfield could be their undoing against this group on Saturday night.

Player to Watch

Koke Vegas – The veteran keeper has more than earned his share of mentions this year with his performances between the sticks. Although the Loyal attack has been the highlight of the season, Vegas has been one of the top keepers in the West. With a solid performance on the evening, he could earn his seventh clean sheet of the year and keep his club in the hunt for a home playoff match.

From the top of the organization on down, United knows they need to do better if they want to make the playoffs this season.

“When you’re facing the defending champs, you gotta play better than you normally play,” said United Owner and President Peter Trevisani during his weekly segment exclusively on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM on Monday. “We let one in early and never regained the composure. They didn’t give us any room to breathe.”

That was an understatement by Trevisani. San Antonio’s pressure was unrelenting last weekend and United just never adapted to it. While San Diego isn’t quite as athletic as San Antonio is, they can still provide a number of issues for United. Success for the Black and Yellow this weekend will begin in the midfield and the ability to make faster decisions and be better in control of the ball. Giving the ball away in the midfield has to be cleaned up, otherwise Loyal could run away with this match.

“You have to let it go. You can’t overreact, but you can’t not react,” continued Trevisani. “The results are the results and we have to get better. We’ve got some new pieces being worked in and we’ll see what happens this weekend.”

United has certainly shown at times that they are capable of playing with anyone in the league. During the five-match unbeaten run, the club looked like world beaters. They played dynamic attacking football and made plenty of smart decisions across the pitch. The same thing needs to happen on Saturday and perhaps new signing Shanyder Borgelin can be a catalyst for that. Borgelin comes to the club from Inter Miami where he starred for their MLS Next Pro side in 2022. He’ll be with United for the remainder of the season on loan and there just might be enough time for him to make a difference.

Player to Watch

Justin Portillo – Portillo has been unusually quiet in recent weeks in terms of productivity, so perhaps he is due. Portillo’s crossing ability has been key in United’s attack since he came to the club, but he hasn’t had as big of an effect in recent matches. With Portillo over the ball, United’s attack has more variables to it and can allow them to find space in the Loyal defense.

Saturday night’s match will take place at Torero Stadium in San Diego. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (MT). The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 2.