Offense returns for NM United in 2-0 victory

Josh Suggs, foreground, celebrates his first-half goal for New Mexico United against San Antonio. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Josh Suggs helped make No. 200 one to remember.

The Las Cruces native and New Mexico United midfielder marked his 200th career regular-season appearance in USL Championship play with timely goal (and a celebratory back flip) Wednesday night. It broke a United scoring drought and helped the home side to an entertaining 2-0 win over San Antonio FC at Isotopes Park.

Austin Yearwood also found the net with a long-range blast — his first professional goal — as NMU (4-2-2) put to bed any lingering frustrations from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Austin Bold FC. United did not manage a shot on goal in that match and had just one over its last two contests.

Wednesday night was a different story.

“That was a great night,” Yearwood said. “A lot of excitement and fun out there.”

Facing a talented San Antonio side that it edged in last season’s Western Conference quarterfinals, New Mexico set the pace from the beginning. United finished with a large advantage in possession (72%) and created numerous quality scoring chances.

But even with six corner-kick opportunities and several other dangerous balls sent into the box, United was unable to cash in early. San Antonio (2-2-4) had a prime scoring chance when a ball rolled through the box to the feet of Justin Dhillon, but his shot sailed well over the crossbar.

Then Suggs broke through. After a lengthy attack that included several well-placed passes, Andrew Tinari slipped a pass through the middle to Suggs in the center of the box. He buried it in the lower net cords and dashed to the sideline for a crowd-pleasing back flip in the 33rd minute.

“It wasn’t a planned celebration,” Suggs said. “To be honest, I was kind of questioning if it was an actual goal or if it would be called offside or something. I feel like I’ve had a lot of goals waved off, but I’m glad that one wasn’t.”

An announced crowd of 6,260 became all the more energized by Suggs’ goal. It brought a smile to the face of head coach Troy Lesesne, as well.

“I felt like that first goal was a good display of us still being patient,” Lesesne said. “Having it capped off by Josh in his 200th career appearance was really special. Him getting the goal was really poetic.”

The 1-0 margin held through halftime, thanks in part to goalkeeper Alex Tambakis’ diving deflection of a hard shot by San Antonio’s Marcus Epps. But after several near misses early in the second half, Yearwood provided insurance in the 52nd minute.

After collecting a pass and making a quick move to his right, Yearwood left fly from just outside the left top corner of the box. His bending shot sailed over SAFC goalkeeper Matthew Cardone and into the upper corner of the goal.

Yearwood, better known for his defensive skills, took a quick victory lap in front of the United faithful behind the stadium’s south goal.

“Kind of an out-of-body experience,” Yearwood said. “It took me 5½ years, but it came. I’m actually more happy about the team performance, though. That’s my mindset.”

Tambakis and the NMU back line made the margin hold up, completing their third consecutive clean sheet. It didn’t come easy as Tambakis was forced to make a pair of difficult saves in stoppage time, pushing one deflected shot just over the crossbar to preserve the shutout.

“It felt great,” Tambakis said. “Clean sheets are a team effort and we want to keep this streak going.”

New Mexico will play its next three matches on the road, but not before taking some time to enjoy Wednesday’s win.

“We’ll take the next four days off,” Lesesne said, “then its back to the grind.”

NOTES: San Antonio’s back line included a familiar face as former UNM men’s player Sam Gleadle started at defender. Gleadle played for the Lobos from 2014-17. …

Midfielder Sergio Rivas missed Wednesday’s game with a groin injury. He is considered day to day.

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