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USL Championship names United’s Lesesne (co-)Coach of the Year

New Mexico United coach Troy Lesesne, shown in July in action in Colorado Springs, shares the United Soccer League Championship division’s Coach of the Year honors for 2020. (Isaiah J. Downing/Colorado Switchbacks)

Troy Lesesne picked up a fitting memento Thursday for a season he’s unlikely to forget.

New Mexico United’s head coach and technical director shared honors as the USL Championship’s 2020 Coach of the Year. Reno 1868 FC’s Ian Russell was also honored as the league selected co-winners for the first time.

In Lesesne’s case, something by which to remember the campaign was hardly necessary. His United squad weathered bizarre circumstances in remarkable style.

Because of New Mexico’s coronavirus restrictions, NMU played all 17 of its matches on the road – the only USL Championship team forced to do so. Nonetheless, United qualified for the playoffs and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals before falling to El Paso in a penalty kick shootout.

Making things all the more memorable, Lesesne and his wife Amanda welcomed their first child late in the season. Lesesne missed two regular-season matches to stay with Amanda late in her pregnancy.

Still, Lesesne counted Thursday’s coaching award as a team accomplishment.

“While I am honored and humbled by this recognition, this award is absolutely a testament to the incredible resilience and determination our players and staff displayed to overcome an almost insurmountable task of playing all 17 matches away from home and not only clinching a playoff spot but progressing to the Western Conference Semifinals,” Lesesne in a United release. “I’m proud of our progress in year two and look forward to building off this memorable 2020 campaign going into next season.”

Team captain Josh Suggs credited Lesesne for helping United navigate a season of unprecedented challenges.

“Troy pushes us to not only be better soccer players,but better men,” Suggs said in the release. “To say that he is deserving of this award is an understatement. He has striven for excellence in even the most adverse circumstances.”

HEADING WEST: United may be without popular midfielder Chris Wehan next season, as the former New Mexico Lobo reportedly signed with Orange County SC on Thursday. The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter posted news of Wehan’s signing on Twitter. United spokesman David Carl said Thursday evening the club could not confirm the news.

Wehan led United with seven goals in 2020, including the game winner in overtime of NMU’s 1-0 playoff victory over San Antonio FC.

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