Amando Moreno extended his torrid streak and New Mexico United maintained its grip on first place Saturday with a 2-0 road win over Real Monarchs SLC in Sandy, Utah.
Moreno scored both goals — one in each half — to help United (7-3-2) earn three important points in the USL Championship Group C race. With four regular-season matches remaining, NMU has 23 points and a 13-point lead over the third-place Real Monarchs (3-7-1), who have five matches left. The top two group finishers qualify for postseason.
Second-place El Paso Locomotive FC (18 points) was scheduled to play at San Antonio later Saturday.
United, which has played all 12 of its matches on the road because of New Mexico’s coronavirus restrictions, improved to 3-0 at Zion’s Bank Stadium this season. On Saturday, Moreno played a starring role.
The NMU midfielder has contributions (goals and/or assists) in nine consecutive matches and helped keep pressure on the Real Monarchs’ defense throughout Saturday’s matchup.
After a pair of early near-misses, United broke through in the 40th minute. Defender Austin Yearwood lofted a lead pass to Chris Wehan, who controlled the bounce with his head and followed with a driving shot that was deflected by Monarchs goalkeeper David Ochoa. Moreno got to the loose ball first and put a sliding shot into the open net for a 1-0 lead.
James Moberg nearly equalized for the home team off a corner kick moments later, but his point-blank shot was just wide of the United goal’s right post.
Moreno doubled the visiting team’s lead on a breakaway opportunity in the 65th minute. He got past Ochoa near the top of the penalty area and finished with an easy tap-in to make the score 2-0.
Coaches and bench players for Real Monarchs protested that Moreno should have been ruled offside on the play, but game officials disagreed and Moreno’s sixth goal of the season stood.
Real Monarchs finished with an edge in possession time and had a 12-10 shot advantage. But just one of the home team’s shot was on target, while United had seven such shots.
NMU goalkeeper Cody Mizell was rarely threatened, but an exception came in the 54th minute when he collided with attacking Real Monarchs midfielder Julian Vazquez after a sliding tackle. Vazquez received a yellow card and Mizell stayed down for several minutes, but he was able to finish the match after a visit from the trainer.
NOTES: Players and coaches on both teams wore black arm bands emblazoned with “BLM” (Black Lives Matter) on Saturday as part of the USLC stance against racism. Players had gathered at midfield for a moment of unity during each of United’s two previous matches.
UP NEXT: Sept. 19, Sept. 19, NM United “home” game at Colorado Springs, 3:30 p.m., 101.7 FM, ESPN+, Estrella TV.