Now, for the second time in a month, New Mexico United is hoping the six-hour bus ride north to Colorado Springs can both wash away the stench of a loss in its previous match while also bringing the same type of good fortune that kick-started a four-match unbeaten streak. That span catapulted United (3-2-1) to a comfortable perch atop the Group C standings nearly a third of the way through the season.
Of course, the circumstances aren’t exactly the same. The July 11 season reboot against the Switchbacks – a 2-1 United victory – did come after a loss, but that was a 1-0 setback on March 7 in Austin that was played before a four-month COVID hiatus in the season.
Saturday’s return trip for United brings with it an opportunity to not only bounce back from the team’s second loss of the season, but one of painful magnitude – a 5-2 thumping at Phoenix Rising last Saturday.
“Our intensity will be there, mainly because we want to respond – we want to respond well to how we played against Phoenix,” defender Kalen Ryden said. “We’re now playing a team that’s in our group, so those points (for a win) are even more crucial. … So you’re going to get a switch of intensity, or maybe a bit more concentration and proper execution because we know we’re better than what we showed last Saturday.”
United has played the past two matches without striker and Albuquerque native Devon Sandoval, who is nursing a lower back injury. While not saying whether Sandoval will play Saturday, coach Troy Lesesne said only the injury of major concern at this point now is the foot injury that ended Justin Schmidt’s season.
Even if Sandoval can’t go, several players have made adjustments in his absence, most notably forwards Amando Moreno and Romeo Parkes, the latter assuming Sandoval’s “9” striker role.
That duo hooked up for one of the more spectacular goals of the season last Saturday. Moreno assisted from midfield with a lob to a streaking Parkes outside the 18-yard box for a header skillfully floated over and past the unsuspecting, and out of position, Rising goal keeper for a 1-0 lead.
“Romeo in particular is very comfortable in the nine position,” Lesesne said. “You know, maybe he’s more comfortable there than even playing in the 11 (his usual left wing spot). It’s just more natural for him.”
Of Sandoval, Lesesne said, “He’s not a loud guy, necessarily, but he’s a really strong personality and I think that type of personality and a match where it’s getting a little bit stretched … or maybe it’s getting a little chaotic, Dev has the ability to just have a calming presence. That’s what we’re looking forward to having him back in.”
ON THE AIR: For the first time, United’s match will not only be streamed online in its usual spot on ESPN-plus and on the radio in the Albuquerque area on 101.7 FM, but aired on KOAT-TV. While Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman have their usual roles on the radio call, Ty Ortega and Chris Hurst will be on the call for KOAT.