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United embracing ‘Kings of Chaos’ role for El Paso rematch

Devon Sandoval, right, heads the ball out against El Paso’s Richie Ryan in their game on July 31, 2019, in Isotopes Park. The two teams play for the second time in nine days this season on Friday in El Paso. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Hat tip to 1983 Manzano High graduate, and one time Journal sports staffer, Duke Keith for coining a new moniker for New Mexico United.

During last week’s match against El Paso Locomotive FC, where the now El Paso-based Keith was on the broadcasting call for ESPN-plus, when it seemed throughout the match that United’s success was coming off what seemed to be moments of frantic, high-pressure or otherwise unscripted play, he described the New Mexico side as the “Kings of Chaos.”

But if you ask second-year coach Troy Lesesne, who again takes his squad to El Paso for a Friday night rematch with Group C-leading Locomotive, he’ll gladly take more of the same, for what appears to be a chaotic, unorchestrated game of chance his team has been benefiting from is absolutely all part of the plan for the high-press attack United has used this season to create plenty of opportunities deep in enemy territory.

“I think you have to give a lot of credit to us in the way we pressed,” Lesesne said NM on Wednesday of how his team played in the first 30 minutes of last week’s 2-2 draw with El Paso. “… We always want to try to take the initiative high up the field when we can. And I wish we could have been a little bit more clinical in some of those moments. And I think that that changes the element of the game somewhat, but I wasn’t surprised by it, because the application of those concepts and how we press have been there since the beginning of preseason, and they’ve carried over and improved since last season.”

So, while United (1-1-1) dominated play for the first 30 minutes or so with its style of play in its last match with Locomotive FC (1-0-2), El Paso overall likely won’t be interested in changing up too much, either, as it largely controlled the next 60 minutes of play, despite managing just the draw.

“If El Paso chooses to play that way (again), and I assume they will, then we’re going to continue to choose to try to press and stay up the field. That’s, again, our philosophy. It’s our style of play.”

Midfielder Andrew Tinari echoed his coach’s sentiment, saying there’s no reason for United to alter too much from what has clearly been working since the July 11 reboot of the USL Championship season.

“It was a 2-2 game (on July 15 at El Paso) and we know they’re gonna play similar going into Friday,” Tinari said. “But we’re gonna play just as similar as well and keep going at them and keep pressuring them.”

And the head of the chaotic snake remains forward Devon Sandoval, the Eldorado High graduate and former UNM Lobo whose penalty kick equalizer in the 76th minute erased what might have been a painful night to remember otherwise after a pair of spectacular misses and one usual tap in he booted well off target late in the match.

The PK was Sandoval’s first goal of the season, but likely isn’t his last with the team’s style of play and his role at the top of the attack.

“Devin Sandoval, I trust him, no matter if he misses the sitter, or if he scores the back heel or the flick, I tell Devon this all the time, ‘As long as you’re fit and healthy and you know, you’re not making too many mistakes, then you’re in my team,'” Lesesne said.

PADILLA: A United spokeswoman this week told the Journal there remains no update on the indefinite suspension of defender Manny Padilla, who the team said it is investigating his involvement in a 2015 sexual misconduct case while he was a soccer player and student at the University of San Francisco. Padilla, who was never charged with a crime, was found through a Title IX investigation by USF to have committed an act of sexual misconduct, and the school last week said it is re-examining the matter after the issue resurfaced on social media.

COVID: The USL Championship this week announced it has conducted 2,357 COVID-19 tests among 1,227 players, coaches and team staff members of the league’s 35 teams between June 30 and July 13. Of those, nine individuals from eight teams tested positive.

None is from New Mexico United, Trevisani confirmed.

FRIDAY: NM United at El Paso Locomotive FC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN-plus (online stream), 101.7 FM

GROUP C STANGINGS: Entering Friday’s matches, here is how USL Championship Group C looks:

• El Paso (1-0-2) — 5 points
• Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (1-1-1) — 4 points
• New Mexico United (1-1-1) — 4 points
• Real Monarchs SLC (0-2-1) — 1 point
*The Switchbacks own a tiebreaker vs. United due to more goals scored.

NMU SCHEDULE/RESULTS:

March 7: Austin Bold FC 1, United 0
July 11: United 2, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 1
July 15: United 2, El Paso Locomotive FC 2
Friday at El Paso Locomotive FC
Aug. 1 at Oklahoma City Energy FC
Aug. 8 vs. Phoenix Rising FC
Aug. 15 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Aug. 19 at Real Monarchs SLC
Aug. 22 at Real Monarchs SLC
Aug. 29 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Sept. 5 vs. El Paso Locomotive FC
Sept. 12 vs. Real Monarchs SLC
Sept. 19 vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Sept. 23 vs. Rio Grande Valley Toros FC
Sept. 26 vs. El Paso Locomotive FC
Sept. 30 vs. Real Monarchs SLC

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