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‘Home on road’ may remain United’s plan

New Mexico United’s Devon Sandoval controls possession in his return to play from injury on Saturday night in the team’s 3-2 loss at El Paso. (Courtesy of Ivan Pierre Aguirre/El Paso Locomotive FC)

Talk about going the extra mile to play home matches.

A day after announcing that New Mexico United’s Sept. 19 match against Colorado Springs Switchbacks would be played as something of a hybrid home affair, NMU president and majority owner Peter Trevisani took the novel idea a step further Wednesday. United, he suggested, could play additional regular-season and even postseason “home” matches outside of New Mexico’s borders in the coming weeks.

Already forced to play its first 11 matches of 2020 on the road because of New Mexico’s coronavirus restrictions, United will keep its vagabond streak intact Saturday when it visits Real Monarchs in Salt Lake City, a match originally scheduled for Albuquerque.

The following week, however, Trevisani’s club will rent Weidner Field in Colorado Springs and make all 1,000 tickets to the NMU-Switchbacks match on Sept. 19 available to United fans. Weidner Field has a capacity of 5,000, but attendance is currently limited to 1,000 because of pandemic restrictions.

United players say they’re eager to play in front of some friendly faces, regardless of venue.

“We know how our fans are and they’ll definitely make the trip,” United midfielder Amando Moreno said during Wednesday’s Zoom media conference. “We can’t wait to see them up there.”

United (6-3-2) resides in first place in the USL Championship Group C standings despite being the only league team that has not played at home. With five matches remaining, NMU is in prime position to claim one of the group’s two playoff spots.

Where United will play remains a week-to-week proposition. Its final three matches are currently scheduled for Albuquerque, but current pandemic restrictions prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people. Even if restrictions are loosened in the near future, playing true home matches this month could be problematic, Trevisani said.

“We always have hope,” he said, “but Isotopes Park hasn’t been used in months and they’ve mostly winterized it, understandably so. UNM’s stadium is basically shut down, too, so I don’t know if they’d be willing to host at this point. It takes some time to set things up, and we just don’t know what the circumstances will be.”

If United can’t play true home matches, Trevasani is open to additional hybrid affairs.

“I definitely think we may be moving other games to Colorado, even if we’re not playing (the Switchbacks),” Trevisani said, “essentially just renting their stadium. … And if we get to the playoffs, I absolutely think we’d be looking at renting, depending on how deep we go, an even bigger stadium.”

Trevisani said selling tickets to United fans will soften the economic blow of renting road facilities, but he conceded 2020 has been difficult financially for a club that led the USL in home attendance in 2019. He sees hybrid home games primarily as a way to reward his team and its fans for their perseverance.

“This to us goes beyond economics,” Trevisani said.

NOTES: Tickets for the Sept. 19 match go on sale to the general public Thursday at 10 a.m. at SwitchbacksFC.com. Fans attending will receive a “travel pack” that includes a mask, hand sanitizer and an “opening day” United flag at the entrance gate. Social distancing measures will be enforced.

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