Adjusting on the fly will be a primary theme for fans attending New Mexico United’s Tuesday home match against Phoenix Rising FC.
On-field adjustments for the players may be simpler.
Tuesday’s rescheduled USL Championship match is a complex production necessitated by COVID-19 issues within Phoenix’s core group. In a span of slightly more than 24 hours starting Friday afternoon, United’s highly anticipated Saturday home contest was abruptly postponed, rescheduled for three days later and moved across the street from Isotopes Park to the University of New Mexico complex.
The short-notice move was far from simple and hardly ideal. United sold nearly 11,000 tickets for Saturday’s weekend date and instead will play a weeknight match at a smaller venue (UNM seats roughly 6,200).
“We were expecting close to 13,000,” United president/CEO Peter Trevisani said. “I think it would’ve been a top-five crowd in the USL this season. It’s really a shame it didn’t happen, for the fans, the players, everyone involved.”
The postponement involves a financial hit for United, both in terms of reduced gate and rental fees for using UNM’s stadium. Ed Manzanares, UNM’s associate athletic director, said United will pay $7,500 plus expenses with UNM staffing the event and providing concessions.
But as co-tenants of Isotopes Park with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, United had few rescheduling options, Trevisani said.
“Between the Isotopes’ games and ours, there were no dates available,” he said. “It was either going to be UNM or Phoenix, and our priority was to get the game in our area code for our fans. Luckily, UNM really stepped up and made this happen for us. All we did was create a ton of work for them.”
United officials first contacted UNM on Saturday morning about using its soccer stadium. Manzanares said putting the necessary pieces in place for a Tuesday match required some scrambling.
“It was pretty difficult because of staffing and concessions,” Manzanares said. “We share staff with the Isotopes and they’re also playing Tuesday, so that complicates things. We also had to make sure we had concessions available. Pulling everything together basically in two days is a challenge, but we were able to make it work.”
UNM typically handles ticketing for events held at its venues, but walk-up sales will not be offered for Tuesday’s match as more tickets were sold than the venue can accommodate. United is issuing vouchers for future home matches to fans who purchased tickets for Saturday but cannot or prefer not to attend Tuesday.
Trevisani said the postponenment came after one Phoenix player tested positive for COVID and 11 others were deemed to have had close contact.
United sought to reschedule the match for Wednesday, Trevisani said, but agreed to Phoenix’s request to play Tuesday for travel reasons.
Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. and fans are encouraged to arrive early as the Isotopes are playing a 6:35 p.m. home game Tuesday.
“We’re definitely asking for patience,” United director of communications David Carl said. “We expect to be near capacity and lines may be longer than usual, but we’ll do everything we can to keep things running smoothly.”
This is the first of two NMU games this week, with the team traveling to play a match in Indiana on Saturday.
Here are other considerations regarding Tuesday’s match:
SEATING: Specific reserved seats will not be offered at UNM. Fans who purchased tickets for the berm, reserved level, sideline or supporters sections at Isotopes Park will be seated in grandstands near the north and south goals. Those who purchased midfield, sideline premium or champions corner tickets will be seated in center sections of UNM’s west-side stands. All seating will be first-come, first-served. United staff will be on hand to help fans.
PARKING: All UNM lots will be open to both United and Isotopes fans at usual event prices ($12 per vehicle).
VOUCHERS: As of Monday afternoon, United had received more than 400 voucher requests (some for multiple tickets) from fans seeking to exchange their tickets for a future home match. Fans are asked to submit voucher request prior to the start of Tuesday’s match. Links to the voucher request form are available at newmexicoutd.com or through United’s social media accounts.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New Mexico (3-2-4): Whether he’ll play remains to be seen, but forward Devon Sandoval’s return to the United is an intriguing suplot for Tuesday’s match. The Albuquerque native’s comeback from blood clots in his aortic artery provided a lift in the locker room. His knack for converting in front of the net could also prove valuable in late-game situations. United received another boost recently when forward Chris Wehan netted his first USLC goal of the season in a 2-0 win over Charleston. The club’s career scoring leader had been thwarted by a combination of stellar saves and near misses but is quite capable of going on a hot streak. New Mexico’s defense remains rock-solid, tied for the league lead with seven goals conceded in nine USLC matches.
Phoenix (6-4-0): The Rising FC player New Mexico fans will be watching most intently is goalkeeper Ben Lundt, who conceded just one United goal in a two-match span earlier this season. Lundt essentially stood on his head in Phoenix’s 1-0 USL Championship win, making seven saves including one on a Chris Wehan penalty kick. Lundt has played every minute for Rising FC this season and ranks second in the league with 34 saves. He’s also allowed 17 goals, however, including eight combined in recent losses to Tampa Bay and LA Galaxy II. Phoenix still possesses one of the USLC’s most prolific attacks, ranking third in the league with 179 shots. Luis Seijas (5 goals) and Greg Hurst (4 goals — 2 against United) lead a balanced group that excels in transition.
NOTEWORTHY: Tuesday’s rescheduled/relocated match will be United’s last home appearance until June 22, and moving the match to UNM means the club will go six weeks between Isotopes Park appearances. New Mexico leads the USLC in home attendance at 10,631 fans per game. Sacramento (9,686) is second. … Phoenix will be without defender Joe Farrell on Tuesday. Farrell picked up a red card in Rising FC’s 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay on May 15.