No one expected New Mexico United to beat Louisville City FC. In a must-win scenario, United threw everything they could at one of the best clubs in the East and, even after going down to nine men, ended up picking up an improbable three points to keep the playoff hopes alive.
It’s rare enough in soccer to see a team go down to ten men, but nine is nearly unheard of. To get there, United did it the hard way. After an opening ten minutes of the match in which neither side could gain control of the momentum, things started to shift for United. Behind the play of Sergio Riva, United started finding themselves in more promising positions.
There was some concern when in the 16th minute Shanyder Borgelin picked up a yellow card for a foul near midfield. From there, the match started to devolve in ways that were unexpected.
Louisville City, a perennial contender in the East, couldn’t track what United was doing. Rivas was finding space to send balls through to the back line and even Borgelin was getting decent runs off the counter. While United was finding space, they weren’t quite putting it all together for a final product. In the 32nd minute, that all changed.
Borgelin was able to work his way into the area and although he got stood up near the mark, the striker somehow managed to tap the ball to his right where Harry Swartz stood. Swartz, who has made the most of his goal opportunities in recent appearances, lashed out with his right foot and placed the ball into the top netting to put United up 1-0.
Already defying expectations, United went into high gear. They looked the most dangerous that they had in weeks and continued to exploit the spacing of the City defense with runs by Rivas, Amando Moreno, and Borgelin.
Just after halftime, it appeared that United might be in for a bigger fight after Borgelin picked up a second yellow card. In a reckless move that sent him to the showers early, Borgelin challenged for a ball, not only late, but went studs up into the leg of a Lou City player, drawing the ire of the referee and the sending off.
Down to ten men, United started to sit back and absorb more pressure from the visitors, but time and time again, Andrew Thomas came up with big saves to maintain the clean sheet. Thomas’s play was highlighted by a moment when a set piece once again threatened to ruin United’s night. After a cross was sent in by the visitors in the 57th, the ball was headed across goal multiple times before Kyle Adams ended the series with an attempt on goal, only for the keeper to grab it out of midair.
Nicky Hernandez, who was subbed on in the aftermath of Borgelin’s red card, became a key player in the rest of the night for United. What seemed like an innocuous foul in the 70th was deemed enough by the referee to be worthy of a yellow card. Hernandez’s response was to increase the lead for United.
Playing off of a counter opportunity in the 74th, Hernandez was played through by Moreno and drove at the left side of the box with the ball at his feet and drew Lou City keeper, Oliver Semmle. Semmle came off of his line, but Hernandez’s shot went around the keeper and into the right side of the net, extending the lead to 2-0. As he celebrated his goal, he donned a mask which goes against Law 12 of the Laws of the Game, resulting in an immediate yellow card, and because it was his second, he was sent off.
Down to nine men, United had to absorb even more pressure from the visitors. Valiantly, United was able to withstand the pressure and pick up an immense win for United as they kept their playoff hopes alive. Their chances were further sustained by other results from around the Western Conference, including draws by Oakland and a loss by Monterey Bay.
Player of the Match
Andrew Thomas – Despite only being credited with three saves, Thomas came up big for United against Lou City. He managed the game and made a number of physical plays to pull the ball down before the visitors could make anything of them. He’s been an invaluable addition to the club and could be what they need down the stretch.
United returns to action on Saturday, October 7 when they take on Phoenix Rising FC in their final Western Conference match of the season. United will be without Borgelin and Hernandez due to their red cards against Lou City, but will be able to return for the season finale against Memphis 901 the following week. The match against Rising is scheduled to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. MT. The pregame show will be heard at 7:30 p.m. with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman. The pair will also have every minute of every play on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps.