After the final whistle, New Mexico United players sprinted to the supporter sections through a haze of black and yellow smoke to celebrate the team’s first-ever United Soccer League win.
On Wednesday night, New Mexico United (1-0-2) defeated the Tulsa Roughnecks (1-1-1) by 2-1 in front of an announced crowd of 8,330 at Isotopes Park.
“This is the reason we become soccer players,” United’s Santi Moar said. “We dream to play in front of these type of crowds. Having this amount of people in the stands is unbelievable.”
New Mexico United set up in a 4-4-2, a tweak from its first two games. The change dropped an attacker to the midfield, adding more muscle centrally. United made three switches from its Saturday starting lineup.
“We invert our outside backs,” United coach Troy Lesesne said. “Our outside backs did a great job of tucking in as central midfielders.”
Keeping the ball wide carved cracks for menacing runs.
Kevaughn Frater made a fourth-minute charge into the penalty area from the left channel, shrugging off a defensive challenge. With too steep a shooting angle he tried to find ex-UNM star Devon Sandoval centrally but Tulsa had him blanketed.
Undaunted, Sandoval got his goal in the seventh. Tulsa goalie Sean Lewis palmed Manny Padilla’s cross to Sandoval lurking at the back post, who nodded home the opener.
“We try to take the initiative and we did,” Lesesne said. “I thought (the first half) was our best half with possession and purpose to goal.”
Moar continued his fine run of form doubling the home side’s lead in the 20th. Josh Suggs made an overlapping run down the left, giving the ball to Moar. He ghosted one defender before rifling top corner to the near post.
“Every single game we are feeling confident on the ball believing in the system,” Moar said. “The first game sometimes we didn’t complete those passes, get those chances. Today in the first half that’s more like us. we created chances.”
With the early lead, United was content to sit deeper and keep its defensive shape.
“You saw United football in the first half,” United goalie Cody Mizell said. “Group effort from all the guys in the back line to the guys in the midfield. You have to give a lot of credit to the guys who came on as well.”
Tulsa started the second half with more conviction, pulling a goal back off a 60th-minute corner kick. Mizell saved Janú Silva’s free header but Luca Lobo pounced to halve the deficit.
“I still don’t think we came out with the right mentality,” Lesesne said about the second-half start. “I was disappointed we didn’t continue that first half of creating chances and being dangerous.”
The Roughnecks kept pressing but the United defense was equal to the task. New Mexico switched to five defenders at the back to limit Tulsa sights of goal.
The New Mexico United official supporter group “The Curse” is launching a podcast. Titled “CurseCast!” it will be recorded weekly at 101.7 FM The Team studios. The podcast will cover team news and fan question-and-answers. Coach Troy Lesesne is the first guest.
“It will be by New Mexicans for New Mexicans,” Curse co-founder David Carl said via text. “Ultimately, the goal is just to have fun and create an opportunity for fans to get a little closer to their team.”
Starr Brothers is the primary sponsor. Fans can listen anywhere podcasts are available.