United’s Cup run continues after Cupset of RSL, 4-2

United’s Cup run continues after Cupset of RSL, 4-2

We keep talking about the Magic of the Open Cup, and this is something that could very well be gone next year if MLS continues to pull clubs out of the competition. But if that were to happen, you wouldn’t get nights like tonight. New Mexico United pulled off another Cupset, defeating the MLS Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake, 4-2.

New Mexico United had plenty to be nervous about in their first-ever opportunity to host an MLS club at The Lab. The visiting Real Salt Lake didn’t have much experience playing on a converted baseball field, but a few players did have that experience from their time in the USL. Diego Luna, Maikel Chang, and Fidel Barajas have all had chances to play in Albuquerque in the past.

That experience didn’t help the visitors in the early going of the night. Outside of a misplaced shot by Chang in the 4th, the opening half-hour was all about United.

Even though they didn’t register a shot in the opening minutes, United looked to be the better of the two sides. They had more final third entries, and they were looking to play from the outside in, targeting Daniel Bruce in the middle. That concentration on the middle would give United the openings they needed to break open the scoring.

In the 19th, the deadlock was broken by United when their press started forcing RSL into some poor looks defensively. It was the seldom used in 2024 Sergio Rivas that would link up with Zico Bailey to net the first one. Bailey would take the pass from Rivas just outside the box and square himself on goal. The midfielder’s right footed shot skimmed across the neatly trimmed pitch and past the RSL keeper Gavin Beavers, 1-0.

Less than a minute later, RSL found themselves on the wrong side of a When Playing It Out of the Back Goes Wrong moment. The famous X account tracks times when clubs fail to successfully play the ball out of their own backfield and give up goals because of it. Immediately after the restart from Bailey’s first goal, RSL played the ball backwards and paid for it. As the visitors tried to play out, Dayonn Harris intercepted the pass and once again found Bailey at the top of the box. From distance, Bailey bested Beavers to extend the lead over the MLS opponent, 2-0.

RSL finally decided to wake up after the half hour mark passed. In one of their few dangerous moments of the first half, the visitors cut the lead in half. Off of a goal kick that was delivered by Beavers, two swift touches by Nelson Palacio and Zavier Gozo dropped the ball at the feet of former Charleston Battery forward Fidel Barajas. Barasjes streaked off the wing and drove on a diagonal at goal. Taking the ball on his right foot, he shot across goal and past Alex Tambakis to cut into United’s lead, 2-1.

Before the half was out, United would extend the lead, again from outside the box. This time though, it was Nicky Hernandez taking center stage. With Bruce leading the charge, he was able to pull the ball down beind the lines of RSL and then find Hernandez behind him in the 5th minute of stoppage time in the half. Hernandez spun away from a defender, creating enough space to shoot from 25 yards out. With laces through the ball, Beavers was no match for the pace of the ball and United went into the break up 3-1.

United should have come out of halftime with plenty of momentum on their side, but it was RSL that would strike again early in the action.

In the 49th minute, old foe Diego Luna was the culprit. After receiving a square ball from Anderson Julio, Luna sent a ball to the bottom left corner, just out of the reach of Tambakis, cutting the lead to 3-2.

The night wasn’t without some frought moments as the two sides kept becoming entangled with each other and the number of yellow cards began to mount. Fortunately neither side found themselves on the receiving end of a sending off. There was also a curious moment when RSL was allowed to have a fourth substitution window, when the rules only allow for three.

Despite the chippiness that was brewing and the extra window for RSL, United managed to find a fourth goal to seal the win. In the 85th Hernandez nearly earned a second goal of his own, but his attempt clanged off the woodwork, narrowly missing the dip. The rebound fell right to Jacobo Reyes who put the finishing touch on the evening with a right footed shot from just inside the six yard box that Beavers was unable to stop, 4-2.

Player of the Match

Zico Bailey – Zico was just seeing the pitch well throughout the night and his effort went unmatched. With two goals in under a minute, Bailey drove the action and put United ahead early. Defensively Bailey was great as well and provided a veteran presensce in the midfield.

Up Next

With the win, United advances to the Round of 16 in the 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Their next opponent in the tournament will be NYCFC II of the MLS Next Pro. NYCFC II advanced after their win over the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. That match will take place on either May 21 or 22 in New York. The details for that match will be announced on Thursday, May 9.