United returns to USOC Quarterfinals after 3-0 win

United returns to USOC Quarterfinals after 3-0 win

In football, it’s a good thing that there are 90 minutes to play in every match. The trip for New Mexico United looked very similar to their forays eastward in league play. The first half struggles gave way to a dominating second half as United advanced to the Quarterfinals after a 3-0 win over NYCFC II.

Despite being favored over the third division side NYCFC II, the first half didn’t play out that way. United looked chaotic as they struggled with finding their tempo and touch. NYCFC played a high line, forcing United to play facing their own goal far more frequently than they would have liked to open the evening.

United wouldn’t sniff out their first attempt at goal until the 11th minute of the match. After drawing a foul just outside the box, Mukwele Akale, one of the heroes of the third round, tried to place the ball in the top left corner, but the shot refused to dip. Instead, the shot sailed over the bar, not even forcing a save out of the NYC keeper.

United’s inability to create opportunities in the half worked into the favor of the Queens-based club. They were able to press and force turnovers in the defensive half of United and worked their way into eight shots inside the first half. Their best chance came in the 28th, when Taylor Calheira put the ball onto his right foot and tried to sneak it past Alex Tambakis in the bottom left corner. United’s #1 was quick to react though and safely scooped up the ball.

Whatever was said in the United locker room at halftime lit a fire under the Black & Yellow.

Less than three minutes after play resumed, Akale would get another chance to break open the scoring in the 48th. Assisted by Zico Bailey, Akale’s shot from close range would tempt the bottom right corner, but was ultimately saved, keeping the deadlock in place.

Just two minutes later, the goalless match would be forever changed.

Played up the left side of the box in the 50th minute, Avionne Flanagan took charge and found the opening that both sides had been waiting for. With little room to work as he neared the byline, Flanagan took aim from a tight angle and let go with his left foot. Going across goal, the ball darted past the NYC keeper and into the back of the net to put United ahead, 0-1.

The host’s chances for any sort of comeback took a major hit in the 55th minute after Marco Micaletto became entanged with Samuel Owusu in front of the fourth official. Jersey in hand, Micaletto did impede the defender, but in return, Owusu struck down at Micaletto with his left arm, in an act of violent conduct, sending the midfielder to the ground. There was no argument from Owusu or the NYC bench as the referee pulled a red card out of his pocket and sent him off.

Down to ten men, NYC’s defenses began to falter under the weight of United’s presses.

Micaletto would once again contribute to the outcome of the match after United won a corner in the 65th minute. The usual set piece taker would head to far corner and deliver the ball into the middle of the six yard box. As it fell, the only person who could get a touch was Talen Maples, who tapped the ball home from short range to double the lead, 0-2.

Daniel Bruce would make way for Greg Hurst in the 83rd and the Scot would have a near immediate impact on the match. Less than a minute into his appearance, Hurst would shoot from just left of goal, but would unfortunately see his attempt saved. Undeterred, he had another attempt in the 86th that forced punched save out of the NYC keeper. That save didn’t go far, as it came straight to Anthony Herbert, who headed the ball into the back netting to seal the win for United, 0-3.

Player of the Match

Anthony Herbert – Herbert has been one of the unsung heroes of the season for United. Filling in during the absence of Kalen Ryden, Herbert may have won himself an every week start with his performances this year. He showcased an ability to step to the ball and deny attackers from NYC throughout the evening and was consistently in the right place at the right time.

Up Next

As far as the 2024 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, United is awaiting their fate. There are three more matches to be played on Wednesday, May 22, which will be followed by the draw for the final eight teams in the tournament. United’s group will consist of Sacramento Republic, LA FC, and the winner of the Seattle Sounders vs Phoenix Rising FC matchup. The draw will take place at 8 PM (MT) and will determine the hosts for both the Quarter and Semifinals, as well as what the match pairings will be. The Quarterfinals will be held over July 9th and 10th.