While there are no easy matches in the USL Championship, some nights just feel harder than others. New Mexico United controlled most of the first half action, but once again a promising start was squandered as they fell to Oakland Roots, 1-2.
Coming off of the draw in San Diego, United looked confident in the first half. Playing with only three defenders at the back, United put an extra player forward hoping to create more chances. Throughout much of the first half, United looked like they could be extremely dangerous with the trio of Shanyder Borgelin, Jacobo Reyes, and Amando Moreno leading the charge.
Even with the pace and physicality presented by the group of forwards, the timing and spacing were just off. That is to be expected with players who haven’t had much time to work together. Missing out on training sessions on Monday due to Hurricane Hilary over the weekend didn’t help matters. Far too often, the forwards found themselves nearly on top of each other, limiting their options.
As the half grew later, things seemed to spread out more as United looked to work the left wing repeatedly. With Josh Suggs out wide, United was looking for chances to cross the ball into either Borgelin or Moreno. In the 28th, Suggs found one such opportunity and managed to pick out an unmarked Moreno. The El Salvadoran was able to attempt a header, but was off the mark from close range.
Oakland was slow to play their way into the match but looked increasingly sharper after the half-hour mark. They started to try and pick out passing lanes with through balls just behind the defensive line of United. In the 32nd minute, the increasing pressure from Roots caused some confusion at the back between Will Seymore and Alex Tambakis. The ball would fall awkwardly between the two veterans and Daniel Barbir had a brief window of opportunity to pick up the opener, but a quick glove hand by Tambakis prevented that from happening as he parried the ball away.
The visitors weren’t to be denied before the end of the half though.
Barbir once again got played in behind the back line and made his run up the left wing in the 42nd minute. A quick look told him that he had support in the middle from Anuar Peláez. Barbir’s cross found the foot of the forward, who was able to tap home beyond Tambakis, 0-1 for Oakland.
Still very much in the match, United and their supporters would have liked to find an answering goal early in the second half, but it was the visitors who kept the momentum.
In the 52nd minute, Kyle Colonna tried to play the ball out of the back, but a pass that lacked enough pace and a lack of reaction allowed Oakland to intercept the pass in the defensive half and go on a 4-on-2 break. Barbir was once again in the middle of the action, driving the ball to the middle of the box. Although he had the opportunity to go for goal himself, Barbir played the ball wide left to Trayvone Reid. Reid would shoot back across goal and push the ball out of the reach of Tambakis and into the side netting to double the lead, 0-2.
Zico Bailey, the newest member of United, made his debut in the 56th minute and almost instantly made an impact. With his first touches of the night, he crossed the ball into the area for Borgelin, but the pair didn’t quite link up. Bailey played extremely well during his time on the pitch and his pace was on display. He had good vision of what was going on around him and looked for chances to put the ball into the area multiple times.
United just couldn’t break down the Oakland defense, which was sitting in a five-at-the-back for most of the night. With that and the play of Paul Blanchette between the sticks, quality chances were few and far between. For the Black & Yellow, their best chance appeared to be in the 89th minute off of a corner from Justin Portillo. Greg Hurst got his head to the delivery and the goal seemed to be on, but the ball was cleared off of the line to maintain the scoreline.
Sergio Rivas was able to pull one goal back in the 92nd minute after another corner for United. Portillo once again delivered a cross into the box where it fell without a controlling touch by either side. Rivas happened to be at the right place at the right time and punched the ball in from close range to cut the deficit, 1-2.
The match had become increasingly physical and tensions boiled over in stoppage time. While the clubs had to be separated, additional yellow cards were shown to Kyle Colonna and Irakoze Donasiyano, and a Roots player spent time on the ground with an injury. The referee allowed for no additional time beyond the initial five minutes and blew the whistle as United tried to press for another late equalizer, but it wasn’t to be.
Player of the Match
Daniel Barbir – The Oakland defender was the difference maker for his club on Wednesday night. His driving runs opened up space for his teammates as he directly set up both of Oakland’s goals and earned himself two assists on the evening.
United’s congested schedule continues to pick up steam as they play their second of four matches within eleven days on Saturday night. FC Tulsa will be their opponents as United looks to break a five-match winless run. Coverage of the match will begin at 6 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps. The TEAM’s coverage continues with kickoff at 7 p.m. when Diehl and Hageman bring every minute of every play to the airwaves.