New Mexico United was bitten by a second-half relapse as it settled for a 1-1 draw with OKC Energy in front of an announced 13,574 fans at Isotopes Park on Wednesday night.
United (6-1-7) still sports just one loss but took its seventh tie, the fifth draw after leading in the second half.
“I’m always proud of the team when we take the initiative,” United Technical Director Troy Lesesne said. “In the second half what was bad we got away from our style of play. They implemented more their style of play. When we take the lead we want to keep the lead. I think we get that second goal tonight and it’s game over.”
OKC compressed the lines in its 4-2-3-1 shape, baiting United to play vertically while positioning goalkeeper Cody Laurendi well off his line to sweep away danger. New Mexico found space switching fields to Daniel Bruce on the left channel, but sluggish crosses halted first-half attacks.
USL scoring leader Kevaughn Frater floated for New Mexico, hunting to get on the ball and direct the offense.
OKC was content to sit behind the ball and look for offense off United turnovers, careful not to overcommit forward and get exposed on the counter. As a result, United dominated possession (64.8 percent) with a big passing edge (570-305).
“We had the same game plan, same mentality to move the opponent with the ball, and crosses create overloads up high,” midfielder Juan Guzman said.
The breakthrough arrived in the 44th off a corner kick from Lobo alum Chris Wehan. Albuquerque natives did the rest. Justin Schmidt met the corner with a powerful downward header and Devon Sandoval flicked it home.
“Something that we work on quite often,” Sandoval said. “We were on the same page and it just came off.”
Frater nearly doubled the edge in first-half stoppage time before some last-ditch tackles kept OKC in the match.
Trailing, OKC was the aggressor out of the interval, mimicking the United press and keeping the ball hemmed in the attacking half.
In the 47th minute, the Energy’s Deshorn Brown got behind the United defense, but goalie Cody Mizell smothered Brown’s shot to preserve the host’s lead. Mizell sprang off his line in the 56th to intercept a teasing through ball for Brown.
But Brown finally poached his foreshadowed goal in the 73rd as the United defense switched off from an Energy throw-in. A flicked header from Omar Gordon got Brown in and he scored far post from a sharp angle.
“What was different in the second half was just how we were in possession. Maybe we weren’t establishing our rhythm enough,”defender Austin Yearwood said. “Giveaways on our part made it a little bit more difficult.”
Late in the game, the Energy briefly looked for a winner before retreating in the final 10 minutes to preserve a point.
United will play host to the 11th-place Sacramento Republic FC (5-5-2) on Saturday night at Isotopes Park.
NOTE: New Mexico United’s official supporter’s group “The Curse” is raising money for Albuquerque nonprofit Casa Q. The organization assists GLBTQ youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The Curse has amassed $155.05 in pledges per goal New Mexico United scores in five June matches. Donate online through June at https://www.prideraiser.org/campaigns/the-curse-nm-the-curse-nm-prideraiser-rNy8qwp/
NM UNITED 1, OKC ENERGY 1
Energy 0 1 — 1
United 1 0 — 1
Scoring: United, 44th minute, Justin Schmidt (Chris Wehan); Energy, 73rd minute Deshorn Brown (Omar Gordon)
Shots: Energy 10 (4), United 16 (6). Possession: Energy (35.2%) United (64.8%). Corner kicks: Energy (3) United (6) Fouls: Energy (12) United (10) Yellow Cards: Energy (Alexy Bosetti, 49th minute) United (Kevaugn Frater, 62nd minute). Att: 13,574