With crucial points on the line in Birmingham, New Mexico United was faced with a tough task. Without Amando Moreno and Shanyder Borgelin, it fell to Greg Hurst to lead the line for the Black & Yellow. Hurst couldn’t make the most of his chance and United fell after a goal by Neco Brett, 1-0.
Neither side was sharp to open the match and there was a lot of slow build through the first fifteen minutes. It was clear though, that Legion had a better idea of what they wanted to do on and off the ball. They were looking for opportunities to get the ball forward for Neco Brett and Enzo Martinez.
Brett came into the match with nine goals on the season but wasn’t quite able to find his rhythm in the first half. Nor was the rest of his club. The best chance for the Legion came in the 27th minute after a turnover by Kalen Ryden in the defensive third. Forced to retreat quickly, Will Seymore stepped in front of Martinez to force the ball out for a corner as Andrew Thomas rushed off of his line to make the stop. On the resulting corner, Martinez would flick the ball backward at goal, but his attempt went off the crossbar.
United would end up allowing eleven shots in the first half and luckily for them, none were on frame.
Meanwhile, the best offensive option for the Black & Yellow was Zico Bailey. Bailey led the way with two shots, both of which were on frame and forced saves out of Matt Van Oekel. His two attempts came in the 31st and 32nd minutes, but United was otherwise toothless in the first half.
After the break, United gave the hosts a different look, trying to change the run of play. The return of United’s press didn’t do much to slow down Legion though. They were able to consistently break the press and get the ball forward despite United’s best efforts.
It wasn’t until after the subs started that either team was able to breakthrough. Daniel Bruce made his return for United and former United player Preston Tabort-Etaka entered the match at the 60th and 63rd minutes respectively. Bruce’s energy gave United life and they started looking like they had some teeth in the match.
Preston did the same for his side, providing some much needed pace for Legion. That was all they needed to finally cross the line. In the 73rd Preston drove the right side of the area and dragged three United players with him. This allowed Brett to get free near the penalty mark as Preston squared the ball back to the middle. Brett was left unharried and tapped home his shot for the lead, and goal-winner, 1-0.
Player of the Match
Preston Tabort-Etaka – Legion looked completely different with Preston on the pitch and he was the difference maker on the afternoon. His pace and ability to get the ball forward played into what Legion wanted to do and created opportunities for the final half-hour.
United returns home this week for another home match, in desperate need of points. On Friday, the club welcomes Indy 11 to Albuquerque in a crucial match. That match will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. with coverage starting at 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps with the pregame show starring Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman.