The second half of Sunday’s game in Montclair, New Jersey, was not necessarily New Mexico United’s finest hour.
Second-half stoppage time made up for it.
Will Seymore’s header in the opening seconds of stoppage time netted the decisive goal as United escaped with a 2-1 victory over New York Red Bulls II at MSU Soccer Park. New Mexico secured three points and kept its impressive road streak intact, but only after receiving a scare from the USL Championship Eastern Conference’s last-place club.
United coach Zach Prince conceded that things were tighter than his team might have liked, but the outcome was exactly what he had in mind.
“I’m really proud of the result,” Prince said in a postgame interview. “When you look at the first half, we could’ve completed some of those chances and it wouldn’t have been so close at the end. But at the end of the day we came here for three points and that’s what we got.”
A nail-biter seemed quite unlikely in the first half, when United wasted little time grabbing the lead. Neco Brett converted his team-leading seventh goal of the season on a tap-in, set up on a cross from Jerome Kiesewetter, who drew the defense to him on a run up the left wing before sending the ball across the box to Brett.
New Mexico (10-3-8) thoroughly dominated the first half, outshooting the home team 7-1 and putting the only three shots on target. But United was unable to cash in on numerous opportunities to extend its 1-0 lead, missing the frame on several occasions and watching New York goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis turn aside a late blast by Brett.
But after putting up little resistance over the first 45 minutes, the Red Bulls suddenly found some life after halftime. Steven Sserwadda misfired wide at an open goal in the 52nd minute, but he capitalized on an opportunity four minutes later. A bounding ball deflected off two United defenders and settled at the feet of Sserwadda in front of the New Mexico goal, where he tucked it under goalkeeper Alex Tambakis to make the score 1-1.
Suddenly energized, New York (2-16-3) continued to apply pressure over the next 15 minutes, forcing Tambakis to make a pair of saves to keep the score even.
Prince made a handful of substitutions that seemed to help New Mexico regain its form, including bringing on recent signee Romario Williams and New Jersey native Amando Moreno along the front line. It was Moreno’s first action of the season after recovering from offseason ACL surgery.
New Mexico then got a break when New York’s Hassan Ndam picked up his second yellow card in the 75th minute. The resulting red card left United with a man advantage.
It appeared the Red Bulls might preserve a draw until United earned a corner kick in the final seconds of regulation time. Justin Portillo served a well-placed ball in front of the goal, and Seymore rose to head it home for a 2-1 New Mexico lead. It was Seymore’s first goal for United and Portillo’s fourth assist of the season.
“This has been coming for Will,” Prince said. “I’m sure he’d like to score more goals but he’s such a big part of what we do. I’m happy for him.”
New Mexico missed a chance to seal the win when Nikoplidis stopped a Portillo penalty kick in the 95th minute, but United did not allow the home team to seriously threaten until the final whistle sounded.
The victory improved United’s road record to 7-1-3 and extended its overall unbeaten streak to seven matches. NMU has not lost a road match since April 16 at Phoenix.
United’s returns home to host Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday.
NEW MEXICO UNITED 2, NEW YORK RED BULLS II 1
New Mexico 1 1 — 2
New York 0 1 — 1
Scoring: NM, 9th, Neco Brett (Jerome Kiesewetter); NY, 56th, Steven Sserwadda; NM, 90+1, Will Seymore (Justin Portillo). Shots: NM 13, NY 6. Shots on goal: NM 6, NY 3. Corner kicks: NM 7. NY 5. Goalkeeper saves: NM (Alex Tambakis) 2; NY (Giannis Nikopolidis) 4. Records: NM 10-3-8, NY 2-16-3.