It feels like it’s been said every week for the past two months, and nearly every season, but for New Mexico United, their season is on the brink heading into the final six matches of the year. After the loss to Birmingham last weekend, United’s chances fell drastically, from 22% to a meager 7% chance to make the cut according to the USL Championship website.
Even if United was able to find a way to upend another Mark Lowry lead club, they would still need help from here on out. They’ve been fortunate so far that the clubs just above them in the table haven’t been able to gain a significant amount of ground and they’re still hanging in there, but just barely. Lowry’s Indy Eleven come to town hoping to solidify their playoff standing in the Eastern Conference, and won’t be short on talent. Lowry has assembled a number of players that United should be more than familiar with.
When he got to Indy, Lowry poached talent from multiple Western Conference clubs. He brought with him Solomon Asante, Aodhan Quinn, Bryam Rebellon, and multiple other known talents from across the league. Despite being able to recruit whoever he wanted, Indy’s performance has been very inconsistent, particularly on their home pitch. On the road, however, they’ve picked up over half the season point total and are on their way to securing a playoff spot. The multitude of attacking options has kept them in nearly every match this season and will cause a lot of issues for United unless they can stay organized through the midfield.
Player to Watch
Sebastien Guenzatti – After half of a decade in Tampa, Guenatti was lured away to Indy by Lowry and he has continued to ply his trade at a high level. With nine goals on the season, Guenzatti is the biggest threat from the front line. The play of United’s centerbacks will be crucial to containing the Indy forward on Friday.
It’s now or never for New Mexico. They have eighteen possible points remaining and an incredibly tough string of matches facing them to close the season. The word of the season has been inconsistency and that doesn’t look likely to change this weekend. Even with the return of Amando Moreno and Shanyder Borgelin, it remains to be seenif United will put together a complete performance. The creativity has been lacking and it very apparent that without Moreno last weekend, the attack was nearly non-existent as they struggled to break down Birmingham.
This matchup against Indy will hinge on the play of the midfield. Not only will they need to slow down the likes of Aodhan Quinn and the ability of Indy to get the ball forward, but they’ll need to play well in transition. The transition piece primarily refers to the club needing to make smart decisions, quickly. Far too often they allow opposing clubs to get set in their defensive set and are able to prevent United from continuing the attack. If United can run at defenders, they’ve given up plenty of opportunities to their opponents. That could be the spark that Borgelin and Moreno need to guide United in a must-win match. Even with a win, the club still faces quite the uphill battle to claim a playoff spot.
Player to Watch
Zico Bailey – Last week against Legion, Bailey played as a midfielder and looked good doing it. In an unnatural position for him, the loanee looked to get the ball forward and make defenders uncomfortable. No matter what role he is in this weekend, he will need to do the same and put the ball into the area regularly to put pressure on Indy.
Coverage of Friday night’s match begins with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show at 6 p.m. Kickoff will follow at 7 p.m. from The Lab. Adam and Andy bring every minute of every play on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps.