United wants to get back on track against rival RGVFC Toros - Albuquerque Journal

United wants to get back on track against rival RGVFC Toros

NM United’s Cristian Nava, left, is shown in action during a June 25 home match against Birmingham Legion FC. The United hosts Rio Grande Valley FC on Wednesday night. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Being a good host is an admirable trait. Being too accommodating is not.

Without resorting to rude behavior, New Mexico United hopes to make Rio Grande Valley FC’s extended visit to Albuquerque this week one to forget.

The teams play the first of back-to-back matchups Wednesday in a rescheduled contest at Isotopes Park. United (7-3-5) also hosts the Toros (7-8-2) on Saturday, allowing the visitors a few days to take in some of the local sights.

That’s fine with New Mexico coach Zach Prince, so long as RGVFC does not get comfortable at Isotopes Park.

“We want to really make them feel like they’re traveling,” Prince said of the Toros on Tuesday. “We want them to feel like they’re playing at 6,000 feet. We want to go right at them.”

Prince and his team have several reasons to be prickly hosts this week. Most obvious among them, United needs to get back on track after going 0-1-1 in its last two outings. New Mexico has played fewer matches than its USL Championship Western Conference rivals but stands in seventh place — the final playoff position — going into Wednesday’s match.

“I like where our team is mentally,” Prince said, “but we need to start maximizing our opportunities now and get more points.”

United also is determined to re-establish its advantage at Rio Grande Credit Union Field. Despite leading the USLC in home attendance this season, New Mexico is just 2-2-3 at home with one of those wins coming at the University of New Mexico.

“There’s no mystery to it,” Prince said. “If you want to be successful, you’ve got to win at home.”

If that’s not motivation enough, United players need only to remember last season, when Rio Grande Valley edged them out by one point for the final Mountain Division playoff spot. In two key October matchups, the Toros earned a 1-1 draw in Albuquerque and a 2-0 win over NMU in Edinburg, Texas.

Prince is not thinking about those outcomes as both teams have since made numerous roster changes. RGVFC, he said, has made stylistic changes in addition to altering personnel.

The Toros’ attack features a heavy dose of crosses, many of them coming from midfielder Isidro “Chelo” Martinez, who played for New Mexico in 2021 but returned to his former squad during the offseason.

“Chelo’s a good player with a wide skill set,” United defender Sam Hamilton said. “When you go through the scouting report on RGV, you see him up there in a lot of categories. We need to keep the ball off him as much as possible.”

The same scouting report reveals some potential opportunities, Prince said.

“(The Toros) give up a lot of set-piece goals,” he said, “so we’ll look to attack that.”

BACK IN ACTION: United captain Josh Suggs was back in the lineup for Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Monterey Bay. Suggs (lower body injury) has appeared in just three matches this season and had not played since April 16.

Suggs’ return was something of a mixed bag as he came up empty on an attempted slide tackle that helped set up Monterey Bay’s early goal. Suggs appeared to settle in afterward, however.

“Josh brings a ton of experience,” Prince said. “He made a mistake early, probably bit too hard on that play, but he responded the right way. It was definitely good to have him back out there.”

Forward Amando Moreno (ACL surgery) is training with the club and “getting close” to a return, Prince said.

Wednesday, 7 p.m., Isotopes Park, espn+ (streaming), 101.7 FM, Estrella TV

Isidro ‘Chelo’ Martinez, RGV Toros

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Rio Grande Valley (7-8-2): The Toros’ roster has changed significantly since last season and one of the most impactful additions has been Isidro “Chelo” Martinez. The midfielder who

played for New Mexico in 2021 is RGV’s primary playmaker with five assists, 31 chances created, 100 crosses and 15 shots. Martinez has appeared in all 17 matches with 14 starts after making 30 appearances and 10 starts for United. Forward Frank Lopez and midfielder Emilio Ycaza have been effective finishers with four goals apiece. Three players (Tyler Deric, Colin Miller, Javier Garcia) have shared goalkeeping duties. Garcia posted a clean sheet in last week’s 0-0 draw with El Paso.

New Mexico (7-3-5): Defenders don’t often get much attention when things are going according to plan, but Will Seymore has made his presence felt consistently in his first season with United. Seymore ranks second on the team in numerous categories, including minutes played (1,260), duels won (66), interceptions (24) and he leads the club in passes (744) with an 81.2% accuracy rate. His physical style has led to a team-best 21 fouls won with 16 conceded. Seymore also leads NMU with six yellow cards. Opponents have focused on limiting Justin Portillo’s playmaking opportunites of late, but he remains third in the USLC with 40 chances created and ranks fifth with 95 crosses.

NOTEWORTHY: Midfielder Harry Swartz did not appear in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Monterey Bay, leaving Portillo, Chris Wehan, Daniel Bruce and Preston Tabort-Etaka as the only players who have played in every United match this season. … Rio Grande Valley edged New Mexico by one point for the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division last season. The Toros went 2-1-1 against NMU head to head, posting two shutouts.

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