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Unfamiliar lineup, same result as NM United wins again on road

In his return to play against his old team, New Mexico United defender Kalen Ryden in action Wednesday night in Herriman, Utah, against Real Monarchs SLC. (Courtesy Real Monarchs SLC)

Kalen Ryden wasn’t there when Real Monarchs SLC hung the 2019 USL Championship banner he helped them win.

Wednesday, he was able to celebrate only a matter of a few yards away from that banner stretched out across a wall behind the south goal of Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The defender took a cross in the 38th minute from David Estrada, sending a well-timed header into the back of the net for his first goal with his new team and setting the tone in a 2-0 New Mexico United win over SLC.

It was United’s third clean sheet shutout in the past four matches, also sending New Mexico (5-2-1) to a comfortable lead atop the Group C standings at the halfway point of the revamped 16-game season. United’s 16 points in the group is five ahead of second place El Paso, which has played one fewer match, and SLC and Colorado Springs each sit at 1-4-1 and have just four points in the bottom half of the standings.

Wednesday, in a match that featured an almost alarmingly unfamiliar starting roster from coach Troy Lesesne — three players made their first start of the season and three others have started four or fewer — United looked to be playing on its heels a good amount of the first half, but still managed to create several great scoring opportunities.

Starting striker Romeo Parkes, for instance, agonizingly missed three one-on-one scoring opportunities in the box — sending one shot well over the goal and SLC goalkeeper James Slayton stopping the other two.

United’s 1-0 lead didn’t look safe in the opening 10 minutes of the second half as SLC had continuous build up to create several opportunities, but none New Mexico’s backline and another tremendous night at the backend from goal keeper Cody Mizell managed to escape that anxious bend but don’t break stretch of play unscathed.

Forward Amando Moreno, arguably one of United’s top two or three players over the past several matches, came off the bench for the first time this season, entering the match in the 57th minute and instantly causing havoc.

In the 68th minute, again thanks to a second Estrada assist, a charging Moreno flicked a shot just over and past Slayton for a 2-0 United lead and a goal that seemed to strip any hope of a season-changing upset from SLC.

United, which is the only USL team not to play a home match yet this season, flew for a road match for the first time this season and will stay in Utah through Saturday’s rematch with SLC before flying home.

A NEW LOOK: Playing out of state match two of three in an eight day span, United’s starting 11 had three players make their first start of the season — Joris Ahlinvi, David Estrada and Ryan Williams — and three others who have not started more than half the team’s eight games.

Regular starters Moreno, Andrew Tinari, Devon Sandoval and captain Josh Suggs each made second half appearances, but didn’t tax themselves ahead of Saturday’s match.

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