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Lesesne hopes United reaches its goal of more goals

United’s Amando Moreno (10) has agreed to stay with the United Soccer League Championship division team through 2023. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Troy Lesesne is all about efficiency, but even New Mexico United’s head coach has his limits.

Coming off a too-close-for-comfort 1-0 road win over Real Monarchs SLC, United (3-2-1) plays Austin Bold FC (2-2-1) Saturday in the first of the first of two straight home matches. Lesesne hopes his team’s attackers will take the opportunity to give the home fans a show.

“I liked our intensity against Real Monarchs,” Lesesne said during Thursday’s media conference. “Now we have to start creating more chances and hopefully scoring more goals.”

For various reasons, New Mexico has managed just one goal over its last two matches. NMU was a man down for most of its 1-0 home loss to Loudoun United on May 29, then attempted just five shots last week in Salt Lake City.

Only one of those five was on target – Chelo Martinez’s unlikely goal on a free kick from 40 yards out. The shot was intended as a cross, but the ball eluded everyone and bounced into the net.

“I was thinking, ‘Will someone get a head on that ball?'” Martinez said. “I was surprised to see it go in. The center back for Monarchs is a friend of mine, so I told him, ‘Hey, thanks for giving me that goal.’ When something like that happens, just take it and move on.”

United’s build-from-the-back attack values quality over quantity when it comes to shot attempts. NMU ranks 22nd in the USL Championship in shots (55), but its conversion rate (19%) is eighth best. Still, six of New Mexico’s eight goals this season were scored in two matches – 3-1 victories over Colorado Springs and this week’s foe, Austin Bold FC.

While he hopes to see more consistency from his offense, Lesesne has been pleased by his club’s recent play on defense. First-year goalkeeper Alex Tambakis posted his first clean sheet with United last week, and he believes the team’s back line is gaining confidence.

“Defense is a team effort,” Tambakis said, “and our chemistry has been great since I got here. It does feel good to get that first clean sheet. Hopefully we can build on it this week.”

MORENO EXTENDED: A day after extending defender Kalen Ryden’s contract through 2023, United announced a similar two-year extension for striker Amando Moreno on Thursday. Moreno, 25, was named the club’s offensive player of the year in 2020, his first season with NMU. He leads the team in goals (8), shots (38) and shots on target since his arrival.

“I’m honored to be able to stay with United for two more years,” Moreno said. “They’ve made me part of this family and I really want to be part of New Mexico winning a championship. That’s my main goal and with the pieces we’ve got in place, it’s a real possibility.”

Lesesne said the contract extensions give the players security while keeping United’s window for a championship run open.

“Kalen’s the best center back in the league,” Lesesne said. “I’m not going to let him go anywhere else, and I feel the same way about Amando. He’s one of the best attacking talents in the league.”

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