Hunt for playoffs continues in earnest for United

Hunt for playoffs continues in earnest for United

Sometimes in sports, a club can do everything right but still fail to get a result. For the first forty minutes on Wednesday, New Mexico United did just that. They controlled the early moments of the match against Oakland Roots, but once again failed to snatch a victory.

“It’s little things where we keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Head Coach Eric Quill told ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM exclusively on Friday. “It’s not a lack of effort. Teams aren’t breaking us down. You can’t do those things in professional sports.”

Unfortunately for United, it’s something that has continued to be a trend since the club’s inception. The team can look like world-beaters one week, then the next can look completely lost. While it can be extremely frustrating for supporters, it’s hard on the club as well. United is now facing the tail end of their schedule and while there’s still hope for the playoffs, things from the outside are looking less hopeful.

FC Tulsa comes to Albuquerque on Saturday, the most recent opponent that currently owns a playoff spot, and potentially one of the more winnable matches for United. Like United, Tulsa are winless in five and barely hanging onto their playoff spot. This season has been a struggle for Tulsa and former United player Rashid Tetteh, who is making a return to The Lab for the first time. This is a side that has given up twelve goals over their previous five outings and could serve as a chance for United to get back on track.

Player to Watch

Phillip Goodrum – One of the highly touted forwards in the USL, Goodrum has been the brightest spot of the year for Tulsa. He’s a player who likes to play off of the shoulder of defenders and put himself in a spot to always be dangerous. He’ll look to take advantage of the spacing between United’s defenders and find plenty of chances.

For Quill and crew, they know that things have to change. Time is running out on the season and the opportunities for the newer signings to mesh with the team. Zico Bailey and Shanyder Borgelin have been brought in as reinforcements to help close the gap. While things have gotten better for Borgelin in two appearances, there’s still work to be done.

“It’s very tough to come into a situation as a centre-forward where there’s an expectation to bang goals in,” said Quill about Borgelin. “We’re seeing more and more growth in each game. There’s fluidity that has to happen and there’s a testing phase where we have to figure out how to best play with him.”

Borgelin represents the first time in club history that they’ve had a legitimate aerial threat up top. His size and physical presence gives United opportunities that they haven’t had in the past. With that though, comes a need to change how United plays. They’ll need to find opportunities for earlier crosses, put the ball in places where a player of Borgelin’s size can control the air around the goal. Those changes could be good for the club down the stretch, if they can make them.

Defensively, the club switched to a three back system on Wednesday, and that too worked for a while. Once Oakland played their way into the night, they found room in the wider areas to exploit the gaps. United could use the same idea against Tulsa on Saturday and it could be more effective against a team that can be pigeonholed into a single dimension, looking for Goodrum.

Player to Watch

Shanyder Borgelin – Borgelin has looked better in each match so far and is looking for ways to get more involved. It’s not just on the forward though. The midfielders and the outside backs will need to find ways to get creative with the ball and get it into where the forward wants it in order to give him more chances to shoot.

Coverage of Saturday night’s game begins at 6 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show, exclusively on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps. The duo will be on the call and have every minute of every play starting with kickoff at 7 p.m.