Akale caps 2-1 win over Roots in front of 11,568

Akale caps 2-1 win over Roots in front of 11,568

Meow Wolf Night hasn’t always been kind to New Mexico United. But, with the momentum of two wins inside seven days, there was a chance for United to continue that, and pick up ground on Sacramento Republic FC. Their opponent for Meow Wolf Night 2024, was a team that had never lost at The Lab, Oakland Roots SC. That changed after a tremendous free kick from Mukwelle Akale gave United a 2-1 lead, one they would not relinquish.

The Black & Yellow picked up right where they left off on Wednesday night at The Lab. They welcomed the Roots to their home pitch and then promptly put them behind the eight ball. In only the second minute of play, the Oakland keeper, Paul Blanchette, made another moment that When Playing It Out of The Back Goes Wrong lives for.

The veteran inexplicably played a pass directly to United forward Greg Hurst. In doing so, Blanchette kept himself off of his line, and in return for his actions, Hurst chipped the ball over the keeper and shook the net for the early lead, 1-0.

United’s attack was finding space to work, particularly up the left wing. Throughout the half, Dayonn Harris would round Guillermo Diaz time and time again, working his way deep into the attacking third or even into the box. United’s next back chance came in the 30th minute. After Harris took a shot from close range, a deflection fell to Hurst, who tried to pounce at the opportunity to add a second. The Scots’ shot ended up being deflected and sent out for a corner, which United was unable to convert from.

In the first half, the Roots all but abandoned playing the ball out of the back after the initial goal was scored and they tried to play more direct. One of the hardest parts of going that route is having attackers who are able to hold their runs until after the ball is played. That undid a lot of the good attempts that the Roots had in the half. Five times they were called offside, at least four of them going to Treyvon Reid, who struggled to make any sort of serious threat inf the final third.

At halftime, both sides made substitutions and the change made by Gavin Clinton had an immediate impact. Opting to send on Jeciel Cedeno to replace Etsgar Cruz, the visitors came out with a lot more pace. Cedeno came on looking to turn and get the ball forward and he was able to do that. Within his first few touches, he opened up space for Neveal Hackshaw outside the area in the 47th.

Hackshaw fired off of his right, and as he did, Alex Tambakis dove toward the expected direction of the ball. Unfortunately for the Greek goalkeeper, the ball took a deflect off of Talen Maples, and went in the complete opposite direction and into the net, 1-1.

Now level, the Roots aggression continued and they prevented United from really getting any sort of momentum until near the hour mark of the match. It was then Daniel Bruce was sent on alongside Nanan Houssou. The pair came onto the pitch and began to open things up for United.

In the 74th, Bruce would take an absolute shot from Hackshaw just outside of the left corner of the box. Rightly called for a foul, Hackshaw was shown a yellow card and United was awarded a free kick. Mukwelle Akale, the halftime sub for United, was sent to stand over the dead ball. Once everyone was set, Akale curved a left-footed shot over the wall and snuck it under the outstretched arms of Blanchette to regain the lead, 2-1.

That goal would be enough for United to pick up their first win at home all-time against the Roots and move them just one point behind Western Conference leader, Sacramento Republic FC.

Player of the Match

Mukwelle Akale – An impact sub for Head Coach Eric Quill, Akale came on at halftime and his impact was felt across the pitch. From defensive plays to scoring the game-winning goal for United, Akale’s determination helped lead United in the second half when they were stuck on their own side of the field and created space and opportunities for the club.

Up Next

United gets a short respite after this match before heading back on the road. Their next match won’t be until May 21. That match will see United travel back to the East Coast for potentially the last time this season, but it won’t be for league play. NYCFC II will be United’s opponent in the 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, with a trip to the tournament quarterfinals on the line.