Host San Antonio FC stole the show in a nationally televised USL Championship match, getting two goals from Nathan Fogaca on its way to a 3-0 victory at Toyota Field.
SAFC (4-3-6) grabbed the lead in the 35th minute and never looked back as United (6-6-2) struggled to put effective attack combinations together. New Mexico only managed to put one shot on target and dropped its fourth consecutive road match.
United coach Troy Lesesne credited San Antonio’s aggressiveness but was not at all satisfied with his team’s performance.
“San Antonio was more aggressive than we were, was on the front foot more than we were and won more duels,” Lesesne said in a postgame phone interview. “That can’t happen on the road. It can’t happen anywhere. We’ve got to be better than that.”
Fogaca and Jose Gallegos were a two-man wrecking crew for San Antonio, accounting for all three goals. Gallegos assisted on both of Fogaca’s tallies, then added the clincher himself in second-half stoppage time.
New Mexico had its share of opportunities, especially in the second half when it outshot the home side 9-6 and controlled most of the possession. But the visitors forced SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone to make only one save — that on a bouncing shot by Sergio Rivas in the 33rd minute.
United’s other shots were either high, wide or blocked by San Antonio defenders.
“I felt like the final pass we needed just wasn’t there,” Lesesne said. “We were able to put the ball in good positions but we ended up having to take difficult shots and couldn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We couldn’t get that last pass to set up some better shots.”
New Mexico’s defense also was guilty of some key mistakes, helping SAFC make the most of its counter-attacking chances. Gallegos was able to beat NMU’s defense by a step on the right wing to set up the opening goal. His low cross got past goalkeeper Alex Tambakis and found Fogaca for an easy tap-in.
The score remained 1-0 into the second half, and United created a series of chances coming out of intermission. None of them were on frame, however, and a Chelo Martinez free kick that whistled just outside the left post was as close as the visitors would come.
San Antonio made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute, cashing in on a midfield turnover after a United throw-in. Gallegos found Fogaca with a well-placed lead pass and the Brazilian dribbled into the box, eluded a scrambling Tambakis and fired a shot that crossed the goal line just before NMU’s Kalen Ryden could reach it.
“I felt like the goals were more defensive breakdowns than anything they forced,” Lesesne said. “On the second goal (Fogaca) dribbled 40 yards through us off a throw-in. We can’t allow that to happen.”
United amped up the pressure over the next 15 minutes, creating several scrambles in front of San Antonio’s goal. Daniel Bruce twice sent blasts just over the crossbar, but the pressure ultimately came to nothing for the visitors.
San Antonio applied the final dagger in stoppage time when a sustained attack led to Gallegos’ goal. His shot from inside the box deflected off a United player’s leg and into the net to secure SAFC’s second consecutive win.
New Mexico has little time to dwell on the loss, returning home to host Mountain Division-leading rival El Paso Locomotive FC on Saturday.
Lesesne said his team may be grateful for the quick turnaround.
“We have to stick together and rise to the occasion,” he said. “I’m 100% confident that we’ll do that.”
New Mexico was without four regular starters Wednesday. Defender Sam Hamilton, midfielder Harry Swartz and forward Brian Brown were out with injuries, while striker Amando Moreno is representing El Salvador in CONCACAF Gold Cup play.
UP NEXT: Saturday — El Paso Locomotive FC at NM United, 7:30 p.m., 101.7 FM/ESPN+ (streaming)/Estrella TV