They may call it the beautiful game, but don’t get it twisted.
Over 90 minutes of soccer, there will be mistakes.
At the professional level, that might mean just a handful of them a game, but they’re still there and they will cost you.
Just ask New Mexico United – a road-weary team still licking its wounds from a 5-2 loss this past Saturday at Phoenix Rising FC. But by coach Troy Lesesne’s account, the team’s play wasn’t all that bad.
“When you make mistakes against a team so capable, so dangerous … and really and truly when we make these types of mistakes in any match, we are always going to put ourselves in a situation where we are either going to get punished for those mistakes, or it’s going to lead to a dangerous chance for the opposition,” Lesesne said.
“I think you saw that amplified in the biggest way (Saturday). … The five goals that were scored, outside of that, you hate to say this, but there weren’t a lot of other mistakes.”
But those aren’t exactly the words of a coach trying to conveniently downplay a 5-2 thumping. Asked if there was any thought on the 415-mile bus ride home after the match that United actually played well enough to win vs. last year’s top Western Conference team and 2020 title contender, Lesesne wasn’t going there.
“No. That’s not being honest,” Lesesne said. “You know, I think there are moments that are control-ables and we can do better. But mistakes were made and Phoenix was better on the night. You can’t call it any other way whenever it’s 5-2. They executed. We did not. And that’s where it starts and stops.”
Tuesday, the team trained and watched the Rising match – including the hat trick surrendered to Phoenix star Junior Flemmings – and, like their coach, the players thought they weren’t on the same level that night as Phoenix, but also thought that they can get there by addressing what they can control.
“As a defender, you know, giving up five goals is not easy to swallow and definitely something that’s unacceptable,” said United’s Kalen Ryden. “… You talk about only five or six mistakes. You know, that’s the difference between a good and a great team.”
TABLE TALK: United, with a 3-2-1 record (3-1-1 since the July 11 restart) still leads the Group C standings with 10 points – two ahead of an El Paso Locomotive side they’ve already played twice in El Paso and six points ahead of both Real Monarchs SLC and this Saturday’s opponent, Colorado Springs Switchbacks. The top two teams from each of the league’s eight groups advance to the playoffs after the modified 16-game season.
POWER RANKINGS: From another, more league-centric perspective, USL Director of Content Nicholas Murray said in his weekly Power Rankings update of Phoenix Rising, a team he slotted in at No. 3 in the 35-team league, “The win against New Mexico maybe wasn’t quite as dominant as the final score might indicate.”
As for United, Murray dropped them to No. 10 this week, down from No. 7 prior to the Phoenix loss, and noted “the club’s overall position is still solid.”
Within its own group it certainly is. Murray’s rankings for the rest of Group C: El Paso at No. 17, SLC at 18 and Colorado Springs at 25.
FELLOWSHIP: Applications are being accepted for the Diversity Fellowship Program – a 6-month initiative aimed at getting women and people of color into front-office, coaching and other leadership roles in professional soccer that is apart of United’s non-profit Somos Unidos Foundation.
“This program is about creating real change in our community,” Lesesne said in a prepared release. “Having a conversation and listening are starting points, but tangible action must immediately follow. The number of women and people of color involved in leadership roles in our sport are staggeringly low and this initiative is a starting point to generate more opportunities. Our hope is that every professional club provides a similar program for their community.”
Applications, which are due Nov. 1, and other qualifying criteria information is available online at somosunidosfoundation.org.