Early on, the Real Monarchs RSL looked to double Santi Moar whenever the New Mexico United talisman was in possession, fully aware of the threat posed. Evidently, that was insufficient attention.
Moar’s first-half hat trick paced United to a breezy 5-1 win over RSL in front of an announced 12,327 fans at Isotopes Park on Saturday night.
Moar has scored seven goals for United, tying him with Tulsa’s Luca Lobo for the United Soccer League Championship Division’s top mark.
The first-year United club remains unbeaten at 3-0-4. RSL fell to 2-2-2.
“What you’re seeing is a group that’s bought in,” said United coach/technical director Troy Lesesne. “They believe in what we’re doing. They believe in this community.”
A meandering start saw both teams knocking it around without much purpose.
The visitors struck first in the 16th minute after United’s Manny Padilla deflected a Josh Heard cross straight up in the air. The Monarchs’ Jack Blake thumped in a first-time volley.
United drew level on a slick training ground play off a corner kick. A low pass reached Josh Suggs on the edge of the goal box. His shot caromed with serendipity to Moar at the back post to stab home at his leisure.
“For our set pieces it was the one moment in the game where everything stops, so things can be rehearsed,” Lesesne said.
Moar brutalized the Monarchs again in the 28th minute off a cross from Chris Wehan. He found space on the left edge of the penalty area to calmly collect Wehan’s ball for a near-post smash.
“Our plan was today to as soon as we got the ball back, go right away,” Moar said. “That allowed us to go to goal quickly. Today we were fortunate we could be clinical in those situations. Those are high standards to keep up. Just keep contributing with goals and assists.”
Wehan provided the assist again in the 40th minute after Toni Soler started the counter, winning the ball in midfield. Wehan picked out Moar, who was never going to miss after again getting behind the RSL defense.
“We wanted to press – that’s kind of a core of this team, especially offensively,” Wehan said. “Our press was working really well. Today when we pressed, we were finding the ball in good spots. Santi was running; it was easy to find him.”
Kevaughn Frater secured the three points in first-half stoppage time by heading home a Padilla cross.
Perhaps leery of some disappointing second halves, United continued a high press initially in the second half before sitting back in a defensive crouch to absorb RSL pressure.
“That’s something we’re continuing to fine tune, our second-half start,” Lesesne said. “It wasn’t as lively as the first half. We maintained a really good defensive shape that allowed us to settle in.”
Cody Mizell stood tall in goal all game for United, commanding his area well to deny the Monarchs a path back.
“The defensive group has proven themselves over the first seven games,” Wehan said.
Wehan was rewarded for his first half altruism in the 79th. RSL goalie David Ochoa got it all wrong as he raced off his line to intercept a speculative Padilla long ball. Wehan collected and chipped into the open goal.
NOTES: Despite a troublesome ankle, former Eldorado and Lobo star Devon Sandoval made an appearance in the 75th minute. Sandoval replaced Frater, both of whom have a history with Real Salt Lake, the parent club of the Real Monarchs.
Sandoval made 74 appearances for RSL from 2013-2016 after being selected 29th overall by the team in the 2013 MLS Superdraft
“I have a lot of history with RSL, it was a special club to me,” Sandoval said. “I have a lot of really good memories there, played a lot of big games. Fortunate to play there for as long as I did. I’m very grateful to that organization.”
Frater spent 2016 on loan with the Real Monarchs.
Albuquerque native Justin Schmidt was picked 35th overall by RSL in the 2017 MLS Superdraft. He made nine appearances for the club.