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NM United settles for draw, doesn’t register one shot on target

Glass half full perspective: New Mexico United came away from Saturday night’s home match with a point and a second straight clean sheet.

Still, the home team did not entirely accomplish its goals.

Despite dominating possession (76%) and applying pressure throughout most of the second half, United ended up settling for a 0-0 draw with visiting Austin Bold FC at Isotopes Park.

The home side simply could not find a crack in Austin’s packed-in defense and did not manage to put a shot on frame.

United coach Troy Lesesne did his best to balance the good and bad afterward.

“On the night there were a lot of positives,” he said. “We got another clean sheet, that’s good. Our goals-against-average comes down, that’s great. I still think we walk away emotionally disappointed that we didn’t get three points.”

Austin, for its part, seemed largely content to play for the draw. The visitors crowded their defensive zone throughout the night, only occasionally pushing forward on a counterattack. New Mexico finished with an 11-7 shot advantage.

“They sat a lot deeper on defense,” Lesesne said. “That was a big adjustment from the last time we played them.”

Saturday’s result extended recent trends for both clubs.

New Mexico (3-2-2) has had considerable trouble finishing of late, having scored just one goal in its last three matches. That lone tally came on a Chelo Martinez free kick that bounced into the net in last week’s 1-0 road win over Real Monarchs. It was United’s only on-target shot of the match.

Austin (2-2-2), on the other hand, has tightened its defense considerably since a 3-1 loss in Albuquerque on May 15. Since Elliot Panicco took over in goal the following week, Austin has conceded just two goals over five matches.

Saturday’s outcome finally quieted a sellout crowd announced at 9,288 (the maximum the club said was allowed under current health restrictions) on Pride Night. United’s players sported colorful first-time kits for the occasion.

NMU came out motivated and applying pressure from the beginning but was unable to find a gap in the opening half.

Kalen Ryden and Justin Schmidt fired shots over the crossbar, but Austin’s Owayne Gordon had the best scoring chance of the half on a breakaway. Gordon ended up with a one-on-one opportunity against NMU goalkeeper Alex Tambakis, but fired wide of the left post.

It was one of very few good scoring chances for the visitors, who had three shots on target but never seriously threatened Tambakis.

“I thought our communication was very good,” Tambakis said, “and we kept the ball most of the night. We didn’t score, that was the only thing that just didn’t happen for us.”

United actually increased its attacking pressure in the second half, sending numerous balls from the wings into Austin’s box. The closest call may have come in the 76th minute, when Ryden headed a hard shot off a corner kick that sailed just outside of the left post.

“I just tried to reiterate to the guys, ‘Just keep pushing, it’ll come,’” United midfielder Josh Suggs said. “Obviously it didn’t come, but I felt like our effort was there all the way to the end.”

Lesesne and his players seemed buoyed by the fact they won’t have long to think about Saturday’s draw. San Antonio FC, a team United defeated in the 2020 postseason, visits Isotopes Park on Wednesday.

“We have to find ways to be more creative on the attack,” Lesesne said, “and we’ll do that, for sure. Now we have to move on. It’s fine to be disappointed but time to move on.”

Match details/statistics: Austin Bold 0, New Mexico United 0

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