Nine matches. That’s all that New Mexico United has left between them and the possible end of their season. A win against FC Tulsa kept their playoff hopes alive, but time is short for them to make a move and the schedule isn’t getting any easier.
With two more matches on tap for this week, United has to take advantage of the chances they have remaining at The Lab. The first team to come in this week, Las Vegas Lights, is all but eliminated from playoff contention, but they’ll be looking to play spoiler during the back end of their schedule. Lights are coming off of a match in which they took Phoenix Rising to task before falling 2-3.
Every year there’s a club that underperforms for most of the season and it’s largely inexplicable. Vegas is that team. They have a roster that should be able to compete with any club in the league, but between their association with LAFC and the loss of several key players, they haven’t quite been able to compete. Their struggles are across the pitch and even former United players Josh Dolling and Timothie Zali aren’t seeing the pitch as much as they would like. Much like the Hartford trip, this could be perceived as a trap match for United. Given the strength of the back end of the schedule, they’ll need to pick up points here as a necessity.
Player to Watch
Andrew Carleton – Carleton’s career hasn’t quite turned out the way he expected, but as he journeys through the USL, he continues to catch on and find ways to contribute. With only three contributions on the season, his stats have been somewhat underwhelming, but he has the ability to be a dynamic player for Lights in the midfield against United.
From the top down, United knows that every point they can earn at this point of the season is crucial.
“I think when you come out and get an early goal, it changes the tone of the game,” said United owner and CEO Peter Trevisani exclusively during his weekly segment on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The Team. “We’ve seen it go the other way too. To see the team get the early goal and keep pressing was a lot of fun.”
United’s efforts on Saturday night gave the club and supporters reason to hope. After the win over FC Tulsa, United sits only three points out of seventh place. The issue is the backend of their schedule. With difficult matchups remaining, Lights could be their best chance to pick up another win. That’s not to say that they couldn’t win more, but the road ahead will be tough. That’s where momentum works in the favor of some clubs.
“We’ve still got 27 points in front of us,” said Trevisani. “A win on Wednesday and we’re right back in the thick of the hunt.”
United certainly has the ability to pick up a win over Vegas and the key will be the forwards. Shanyder Borgelin continues to work into form with those around him and he’s getting closer to opening his account. After a few close chances last week, he is poised to break it wide open. He’s been able to draw the attention of defenders and open space which helps everyone around him and makes defenders account for him at all times.
At the other end, United has moved into more of a back three system and while it has had moments of weakness, the combination of Kyle Colonna, Kalen Ryden, and Zico Bailey would be tough for any club to face. Bailey’s pace has been crucial over the two previous matches and will help corral the strengths of Vegas on Wednesday.
Player to Watch
Nicky Hernandez – If Hernandez is able to return from his injury, his interplay through the middle could be crucial for United. With his ability to create and play a through ball, he could potentially link up with Borgelin throughout the night and break the back line of Vegas.
Coverage of Wednesday night’s match will begin at 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show. Coverage continues with kickoff at 7 when Adam and Andy bring every minute of every play. The match will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps.