New Mexico United needed a win and help. They got the help they needed on Saturday night with wins from Memphis 901, San Diego Loyal, and Sacramento Republic. Then it was their turn to take care of business and they did so with goals from Amando Moreno and Justin Portillo as they beat Phoenix Rising FC, 1-2.
As is customary between the two rivals, the match was fiercely contested from the opening whistle. While the hosts would end up having the edge in possession, neither side could really claim an advantage.
Even with the firepower that Rising presents, United ended up with better looks before the end of the half. In the 15th minute, Zico Bailey came into possession just inside the Rising side of the pitch and saw an opportunity ahead of him. That opportunity was Rocco Rios Novo, the Rising keeper, drifting well off of his line. With his head up, Bailey saw the former Atlanta United player and put an incredible shot on frame, forcing the keeper to make a save.
United would see another chance in the 36th that wasn’t far from finding home either. This time United was playing inside the area, looking for a chance when the ball got recycled out to Harry Swartz. Swartz with a clean look, fired toward the bottom right corner of the frame but missed by inches.
In between, Rising saw their best chance of the half come in the 32nd when Danny Trejo was able to get free through the middle of the park and had an opportunity to go one-on-one with Andy Thomas. Trejo, who has been one of the best goalscorers in the league all season long, tried to go to Thomas’ right, but the keeper held his angle and punched the ball away.
Deadlocked at the half, United hadn’t made any headway in the playoff hunt from their own actions. But, a mistake at the back would prove costly for Rising.
In the 52nd minute, Mohamed Traore found himself in a tough position on the near side and tried to play an ill-advised pass all the way across the defensive third of Rising. With neither enough pace nor the right placement on his pass, Ammando Moreno stepped in and intercepted the pass in stride. Charging at Rio Novo, Moreno slowed his pace and chipped the ball over the young keeper and into the back of the net for the lead, 0-1.
The intensity continued and the yellow cards continued to be racked up by both sides. In the 80th minute Greg Hurst, who had been somewhat quiet all night, made a turn at midfield and galloped up the left channel. Entering the area, Hurst tried to play the ball back into the middle of the area, and as he did so, Alejandro Fuenmayor clattered into the United forward, and giving the visitors their fourth penalty of the year. As always, Justin Portillo was sent to the spot and after some delay, he cooly slotted home to extend the lead, 0-2
The drama didn’t end there. The addage of 2-0 being the most dangerous scoreline lived up to it at the end of the night.
As United was looking to close out a very productive evening, Rising still had something left in the tank. In the 90th minute, the hosts were able to work into the area with United trying desperately to clear any danger. In an unfortunate turn of events, the ball found its way to Dariusz Formella, who was able to tuck it away in the top netting to cut the lead, 1-2.
Because of the relentless number of stoppages in the second half, the referee signaled that there would be seven minutes of added time. In total, twelve cards were shown in the second half, including one to what appeared to be Masaki Hemmi on the United bench. The added time was warranted and while Rising were looking for a late equalizer, they struggled to put together passes in the final third, allowing time to slip away until the final whistle blew.
Player of the Match
The defense – This was a unit that came into the night with questions about it. Could they face the pace and skill of Manuel Arteaga and Danny Trejo? United was more than up to the challenge and with their compact shape in the area, kept the dangerous duo from becoming a threat at all. The pair was limited to two shots the entire night thanks to the efforts of United.
With the win, United’s chances of making the playoffs should receive a considerable bump. At the end of the night, they sit in 8th place, in the final playoff position. That could all change depending on the results of the Birmingham Legion and Monterey Bay match on Sunday. If Monterey were to draw or lose, all United has to do to clinch a playoff spot is win on Friday, October 13 in their final regular season match. Their opponent that night is Memphis 901 FC, who played a big role in the outcome of Saturday night. Coverage of the match against Memphis will begin at 6 p.m MT with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps. The broadcast partners will continue their coverage with kickoff at 7 p.m. when they bring every minute of every play.