United rallies to fifth straight victory - Albuquerque Journal

United rallies to fifth straight victory

New Mexico United showed a little flair for the dramatic in Northern California on Wednesday night.Neco Brett and Chris Wehan scored second-half goals, Cristian Nava made a splash and United survived a late red card to earn a wild 2-1 road victory over Oakland Roots SC at Laney College.

New Mexico extended its win streak to five, its unbeaten streak to seven matches and climbed back into a tie for third place in the USL Championship’s Western Conference.

NMU also ended Roots SC’s six-match unbeaten streak and held off a club with a strong knack for scoring big goals late. Oakland has scored 12 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches and stoppage time this season and five times netted tying goals in the final five minutes.

“The guys are really, really happy right now and so are we as a staff,” NMU coach Zach Prince said in a postgame phone interview. “I don’t know if we came out a little complacent in the first half, but we did not play to our style. When we impose our style on a game like we did in the second half, we can be a really hard team to contend with. Great response by our guys in the second half.”

Oakland led 1-0 after a relatively quiet first half, grabbing the lead on an Edgardo Rito goal in the 20th minute. Rito made a run from near midfield down the right wing and right-footed a crossfield shot just beyond the reach of a diving Alex Tambakis.

New Mexico’s attack finally began to generate pressure in the final five minutes of the half. That carried over to the second half and picked up even more steam when Nava entered the game as a substitute in the 55th minute.

Nava helped set up United’s tying goal in the 58th minute, pushing the ball upfield along the right sideline to Sergio Rivas in space. Rivas centered the ball to Brett at the top of the penalty area, where he turned and fired it into the net.

It was Brett’s team-leading fifth goal of the season and the 67th of his USLC career.

New Mexico’s energized attack continued to pressure and broke through with a go-ahead tally in the 67th minute. Crisp passing helped Nava break loose right of the box and he floated a well-placed centering pass toward midfield. Wehan headed it into the left upper corner to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

“Bringing in Cristian and moving Sergio to the front allowed us to be more unpredictable and create more opportunities,” Prince said. “And Cristian, to his credit, comes in and plays fearless. He makes things happen. I’m glad we have him.”

Things got chippy in the closing minutes with both teams earning multiple yellow cards. United’s Jerome Kiesewetter was hit with a red card early in stoppage time after he pushed an Oakland player in the neck area in retaliation for an apparent punch that was not called.

With a man advantage, Roots SC came up with two dangerous scoring chances in the final minutes but Tambakis came up with big saves to thwart them both. Tambakis finished with four saves overall.

New Mexico finished with a 12-9 shot advantage and effectively dominated the second half despite holding only 44% possession for the match.

New Mexico  0  2 — 2
Oakland        1  0 — 1
Scoring: O, 20th, Edgardo Rito; NM, 58th, Neco Brett (Sergio Rivas); NM, 67th, Chris Wehan (Cristian Nava). Shots: NM 12, O 9. Shots on goal: NM 4, O 5. Corner kicks: NM 1, O 1. Goalkeeper saves: NM (Alex Tambakis) 4, O (Paul Blanchette) 1. Records: NM 7-2-4, O 4-5-8.


Rio Grande Valley FC at NM United, 7 p.m., ESPN+ (streaming), Estrella TV, 101.7 FM
(See updated USL Championship standings here.)
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