Still in the playoff hunt, United hosts Oakland

Still in the playoff hunt, United hosts Oakland

New Mexico United’s trip to San Diego, while fruitful, was longer than expected. Two comebacks Saturday night were enough for the Black & Yellow to pick up a draw, 2-2, but it wasn’t enough to let them out of the state after the match. Hurricane Hilary made her presence known and United was stuck.

Typically, United would have looked to return to Albuquerque the day following the match. Under normal circumstances, there wouldn’t have been an issue with that, but even prior to the match on Saturday, United knew they weren’t going anywhere. The front office got busy looking for alternatives to get the boys back as soon as possible. A second attempt, via a bus to Phoenix, followed by a plane ride, fell through when the bus backed out due to the weather as well.

United did what they’ve always done, they became road warriors. They ended up staying in San Diego until Monday, when they took the last available flight back to the 505, and finally returned home late on Monday evening. Without the ability to return home, United made the best of the facilities at the hotel where they stayed and were able to go through their recovery regimen and get in off-the-ball work.

It wasn’t until Tuesday that the club was able to get back onto the training field for a late training session, where they were joined by the newest member of the club, Zico Bailey. While some see it as an unusual signing given that United has struggled in recent weeks more on the offensive end, Bailey comes to the club by way of San Antonio FC and is a defender with a lot of pace and someone who can help anchor the backline for the remainder of the year.

Given the recent performances of youngster Kyle Colonna, who earned Team of the Week honors, Bailey would likely slide to the outside back position. No matter who is back there, they will need to not only slow down Oakland Roots from the outside, but also find ways to clear the danger and transition the ball through the midfield for their best chance to win on Wednesday at The Lab.

Player to Watch

Sergio Rivas – After a few quiet performances, Rivas stood out on Saturday as having a great night. He was picking up the ball in deeper areas and driving the play forward. He has excelled when doing this in the past as it allows him the opportunity to create for himself or for others.

While United is looking to get back above the playoff line, Oakland is looking to put distance between themselves and the bottom of the playoff places. The only blemish on their record recently was a loss over the weekend to the high-flying Switchbacks. Oakland has quietly put together a solid showing in the West and is hoping to avoid a late-season swoon in their form, which has happened in the past.

Oakland’s front office has put together a good side without some of the larger names known across the league. Two names in particular stand out though; Baboucarr Njie and Paul Blanchette. With two veteran players at the back, Oakland has put together a solid season defensively. Arguably the strength of the club, they’re hard to break through at the back. If the duo can limit United’s looks on goal, Oakland could steal the points in Albuquerque.

Player to Watch

Johnny Rodriguez – Rodriguez has been with the club since 2020 and has made his mark since he debuted against United in 2021. With nine goals on the year, Oakland will be looking to play him into the area and get him shots from close range, where he excels.

Wednesday night’s match at The Lab is set to begin at 7:00 p.m. Coverage of the match will begin with the pregame show at 6:00 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, or The TEAM apps. The duo will also bring every minute of every play immediately following the end of the pregame show.