Moreno is back for United in time for game in New York - Albuquerque Journal

Moreno is back for United in time for game in New York

New Mexico United’s, Justin Schmidt (Left) congratulates Amando Moreno (right) after he scores a goal in 2021 action. Moreno is back from injury as United faces New York Red Bulls II on Sunday. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)

From Amando Moreno’s perspective, Sunday is a perfect time for a comeback.

New Mexico United’s high-energy striker has spent the first 20 matches of 2022 sidelined as he recovered/rehabbed from ACL surgery. Moreno injured his knee late last season during an Oct. 17 game at San Diego.

The road back has been difficult. Moreno pushed himself in recovery and had hoped to return by late June, but United coach Zach Prince and his staff preached patience. After several weeks of full-intensity workouts, Moreno declared himself ready for action.

“I am mentally and physically ready,” Moreno said during United’s media availability this week. “It was a test for me getting to this point, but I finally made it. The team’s playing well and I’m excited.”

Moreno’s return comes just in time for a trip home. New Mexico visits New York Red Bulls II (Moreno’s former club) on Sunday at MSU Soccer Park in Montclair, New Jersey (Moreno’s home state).

Moreno signed his first pro contract with the Red Bulls in 2013 and made two appearances with the MLS club before playing four seasons in Mexico. He returned in 2018 and played for the USL Championship Red Bulls II, scoring 10 goals and helping the club reach the Eastern Conference finals.

Sunday will be his first experience as an opposing player, and Moreno is looking forward to it.

“My dad bought a bunch of tickets,” Moreno said. “I’m excited to go back where I grew up, but I’m really just excited to be able to play again. I wake up in the mornings with a big smile now.”

Prince credited Moreno’s work ethic in coming back from his injury – even if he had to occasionally temper his 26-year-old forward’s enthusiasm.

“It’s been a long road for him,” Prince said. “Amando was really impatient at times because he wanted to be back, but we had to balance that with making sure he was fully fit and fully healthy. Now he’s no different than anyone else on the club, trying to earn his spot every week. It’s great to have him back.”

As usual, Prince gave no hints about his lineup plans for Sunday. He’ll have plenty of options as United (9-3-8) takes on struggling New York (2-15-3), which has won just once in its last 18 matches.

It’s the beginning of a grueling week for New Mexico, which comes home to face Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday and hosts The Miami FC on Saturday. But while Prince and his staff mull over personnel decisions and try to keep players fresh, United’s regulars are focused on leaving New Jersey with three points.

United earned one point last weekend when Neco Brett’s stoppage-time goal salvaged a 2-2 draw in Detroit. NMU captain Josh Suggs came away with mixed emotions.

“That atmosphere was great,” he said. “With the fans singing and chanting, it was good to get a point on the road. But this year’s team is different. Usually when you come back to tie late, guys feel pretty good about it. Guys in our locker room were disappointed because we expected to get a win. That’s our expectation for Sunday, too – really for every match.”

RE-UNITED: NMU had no extensive plans outside of soccer for its New York-area visit, Prince said.

Saturday night figured to include watching a friendly pitting local MLS side New York City FC against FC Barcelona – on television. Former United coach Troy Lesesne is an assistant with NYCFC this season, but attending the match was not an option.

“It’s sold out,” Prince said, “but we’ll get Troy in to see the guys at some point during the trip. We’re all looking forward to seeing him.”

Prince served as Lesesne’s assistant coach with NMU from 2019-21.


Sunday, 4 p.m.,
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New Mexico (9-3-8): Sunday begins a stretch of three matches in six days that will undoubtedly test United’s depth. It could inspire coach Zach Prince to tweak his lineup against struggling New York, but it remains to be seen what changes he’ll make. Chris Wehan returned to action in last week’s 2-2 draw at Detroit and provided a spark, scoring one goal and forcing goalkeeper saves on two other strong shots. Wehan has five goals this season on 23 shots. Neco Brett and Justin Portillo lead the club with six goals apiece. Defender/midfielder Harry Swartz has scored four goals and makes his presence felt battling for possession. He leads the team in duels (208) and duels won (108).
New York (2-15-3): There’s no sugar coating this season’s numbers for Red Bulls II, who rank last in USL Championship in points (9) and has netted just 10 goals all season — 11 fewer than any other club. The Bulls’ conversion rate of 6.8% is also by far the league’s worst. Forwards Jeremy Rafanello and Jordan Adebayo-Smith have accounted for six of those goals (three apiece). Rafanello is the go-to attacker, leading New York with 37 shots and 20 chances created. Three goalkeepers have shared duties for the club and all have been busy. Anthony Marcucci has made 34 saves and conceded 22 goals in 12 appearances. Overall, New York ranks 23rd with 41 goals allowed on 113 shots faced.


NOTEWORTHY: New Mexico continues to be one of the USLC’s top road teams with a 6-1-3 mark. Only Western Conference-leading San Antonio (9-2-0) and Tampa Bay (5-1-4) have enjoyed comparable success on the road. … After playing in front of a sellout crowd (7,470) at Detroit, United can expect a more serene environment Sunday. New York Red Bulls II rank second-to-last in home attendance at 328 fans per match. Only L.A. Galaxy II (325 per home contest) ranks lower.


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