Midseason form it was not.
New Mexico United came away from Saturday night’s season opener at Rio Grande Valley FC without any goals or points after a 1-0 loss to the host Toros in Edinburg, Texas.
Elvis Amoh’s goal in the 65th minute, which deflected off the foot of United defender Kalen Ryden and bounded over the head of goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, was the difference for RGVFC, which was the aggressor for most of the second half.
New Mexico finished with an edge in possession (54%), but its patient offense was unable to generate many quality scoring chances. The Toros outshot NMU 12-10 and put four shots on frame to just two for the visitors.
The result continued two unhappy trends for United, which fell to 0-2-1 in season openers and has yet to defeat Rio Grande Valley in three meetings. NMU dropped a 1-0 decision to Austin Bold last season before the coronavirus pandemic halted USL Championship play for four months.
United and RGVFC played to draws in their previous two contests in 2019, and last season’s scheduled meeting was canceled due to COVID issues. Now rivals in this season’s Mountain Division, the clubs will meet three more times in 2021.
Roughly 850 United fans, according to a United spokesperson, attended a watch party at Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza — reportedly one of several such gatherings around the city — but the popular home franchise was unable to provide many highlights.
Tambakis played well Saturday in his first appearance for United, turning aside three hard RGVFC shots to keep his team in the game. Toros goalkeeper Tyler Deric was not often threatened on his way to posting a clean sheet.
The shutout was disappointing for a New Mexico offense that finished the preseason red hot. United scored a total of eight goals in its final two outings, but appeared a step out of sync Saturday night.
Coach Troy Lesesne employed four newcomers in his starting lineup (midfielders Isidro Martinez, Micheal Azira, Harry Swartz and Tambakis), and he later inserted offseason signees Ilija Ilic, Sergio Rivas and Brian Brown on a warm, muggy night.
Brown may have had United’s best scoring opportunity of the match, beating a RGVFC defender as he turned from the right wing toward the center of the field. But Brown’s hooking left-foot blast sailed just wide of the left post in the 84th minute and it proved to be NMU’s last quality chance.
Rio Grande Valley maintained possession for much of the final minutes of regulation and stoppage time and nearly added a second goal on a Vicente Sanchez blast that Tambakis managed to deflect wide. Tambakis and United’s back line were busy as the Toros had 13 corner kicks in the match. NMU tried just four.
The match was physical throughout, the teams combining for 33 fouls (19 by United) and five yellow cards. Ryden briefly left the pitch after an opponent’s elbow to his face drew blood. He returned to finish the match with a bandaged nose.
United will be back in Texas next Saturday for a match against rival El Paso Locomotive FC. New Mexico will host Austin Bold on May 15 for its first regular-season home match since 2019.
Saturday, May 8
NM United at El Paso Locomotive FC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+ (streaming)