On the Road Again, United faces familiar San Antonio FC

On the Road Again, United faces familiar San Antonio FC

If it feels like New Mexico United has not spent much time at home this season, you aren’t wrong. Of the fourteen matches played this season, eight of them have been away from The Lab. This weekend’s match against San Antonio FC is the ninth of the season on the road, and United needs to improve their form.

Fortunately for United, this trip doesn’t require United to cross the Mississippi River, where there results have left a lot to be desired. Against San Antonio, it wouldn’t always be considered a high-probability win. This year though, San Antonio are struggling. They’ve lost four of their last five and are languishing near the bottom of the table. United does hold a slight edge in the all-time series, 6-5-1 against the men from San Antonio.

In preparing for this match, it’s easy to say that United should prepare for the size advantage that SAFC brings to the table. It could also be easy to pick out a forward that can be a match-changer, however, this is a side that hasn’t been dangerous in the attack since early in the season. In their past five matches, they’ve only scored twice and haven’t been the same side as they’ve been in the past. Even highly-touted newcomer Jake LaCava hasn’t been the help they thought he would be.

The key for SAFC is still their physicality. By making their presence felt in and around the area, they can push United around, forcing them into mistakes at the back. Despite their issues, the strength of this time is the forwards. They are more than capable of putting United into poor positions and use the physicality to create space and turn on goal.

Player to Watch

Juan Agudelo – The Colombian has never been ‘the guy’ in his career. He’s been good, even good enough to make the Men’s National Teams. After a stalled move to England, he was forced to return to the US where he’s been a journeyman for the past few years. He has a chance to be very good for SAFC, if they can get him service.

United is still looking for a way to build momentum on the road. The up and down results certainly don’t match what is happening at home for the Black & Yellow, and they need to figure out a way to pick up points in order to maintain their spot in the West. With the looming match against LA FC in the Open Cup, neither this week or the midweek on the 3rd can be ignored.

United looked far more comfortable playing out of the back against Colorado, and they’ll look to do the same agaist SAFC. SAFC may actually sit back a bit more than the Switchbacks did and try to invite the pressure, instead of forcing a high line. United has struggled at times to break down more defensive teams and will need to spread the defense to get chances through the middle.

WIth a fairly healthy team sheet now, Head Coach Eric Quill has to find a lineup that will work against a team like SAFC. United doesn’t bring a lot of size, especially up top, but both Greg Hurst and Abu Danladi can help against the size of the San Antonio defense. Watch for overlapping runs from Chris Gloster or Mukwele Akale to draw defenders outside and create chances for crosses to open up the middle. If they can exploit that space and a shaky goalkeeper, United can keep building momentum on the road.

Player to Watch

Chris Gloster – Gloster’s career has taken him to Europe and back. After some shaky showings early in the season, Gloster has had some of the best matches of the year in recent weeks. Able to exploit the wider spaces, he can put the ball into the area and put Hurst in a great spot to score.

Coverage of Saturday’s match will begin with Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman on the pregame show starting at 6 PM MT. The match proper will begin at 7 PM MT from Toyota Field in San Antonio. Catch coverage of New Mexico United all season long on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, The TEAM website, and The TEAM apps.