It was a game New Mexico United could have won and probably should have won.
In the end, however, United came away Sunday from its USL Championship match at Tacoma with a second consecutive scoreless draw.
Twice within two minutes midway through the second half, New Mexico forward Amando Moreno broke in free on Tacoma goalkeeper Andy Thomas only to be retreating in frustration.
The rangy Defiance goalkeeper got his fingertips on the first of Moreno’s left-footed attempts in the 66th minute after Devon Sandoval chipped a dangerous ball through the penalty area.
And moments later, Brian Brown delivered a pinpoint reverse head flick into space to spring Moreno again as he sped through the Tacoma defense. This time, it was quite unclear whether Thomas got any piece of the ball before he dumped Moreno inside the six-yard area.
But when no penalty was called, New Mexico (6-6-4) came away stymied and were forced to settle for one point on the match. United is just the second team to do even that well in Tacoma (4-4-5) as it remains one of three teams in the league undefeated at home.
This marks the fifth straight road match that United came away winless, but it does break a four-game road losing streak.
“We have to create more moments like that,” United coach Troy Lesesne said in a post-game telephone interview. “If we have another two or three chances like that, one of them is going to fall that way. We can’t wait on a decision on a penalty, but trying to create more to give us a chance to score goals.”
And New Mexico can take some solace in the fact that it controlled most of the play, especially in the second half.
“When you look at the game’s second half in particular, we were able to dictate the tempo and eliminate any real chances they had and give ourselves a chance to win the game. Those are some of the positives we can look at,” Lesesne said.
What United cannot take solace with, however, is a scoreless streak that has now reached 308 minutes since Sandoval scored in the 52nd minute in a 2-1 win over Charleston on July 12.
United came on strong to open the match, putting pressure on the Tacoma defense through the first 15 minutes. While New Mexico was dangerous, it never quite delivered a solid scoring chance and Tacoma began to adjust to United’s style.
That led to a skyballing header from Defiance forward Samuel Adeniran that forced New Mexico goalkeeper Alex Tabakis into making a diving save to the right.
United regained the initiative again late in the first half, pulling off a series of increasingly tight passes within the penalty area, but it could never quite solve the Defiance defense to get off a dangerous shot.
“We would have liked to get three points,” Lesesne said. “But we have another clean sheet on the road against a good team that hasn’t lost at home so there were definitely some positives.”
New Mexico now has a break until playing host to rival El Paso on Aug. 14. It is a time Lesesne said he plans to put to good use to help get his squad ready for the back end of the schedule.
“A lot of the guys can use that to kind of mentally recharge and reset,” he said earlier in the week. “We’ll take some time, that’s for sure. We rarely have breaks to take time so we’ll make sure to take it when we have it.”