United heads into postseason with momentum after beating Switchbacks - Albuquerque Journal

United heads into postseason with momentum after beating Switchbacks

New Mexico United Cristian Nava, left, squeezes a goal past Colorado Springs’ Matthew Mahoney in the first half. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

New Mexico United finished on a high note Saturday night.

Fan favorites Cristian Nava and Daniel Bruce netted first-half goals, and United ended the regular season with 2-0 victory over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in front of a raucous, large crowd at Isotopes Park.

United will head into the USL Championship playoffs next weekend having won two straight and unbeaten in its final five matches. NMU also seems to have shaken off the goal-scoring funk that haunted it for several weeks. New Mexico netted eight goals in its final three appearances after scoring just eight in its previous 10 matches combined.

“I feel really good about the space we’re in right now,” midfielder Sam Hamilton said. “I wouldn’t want to play us in the playoffs.”

United (13-9-12) will be the Western Conference’s No. 5 seed and visit No. 4 Sacramento to begin the playoffs either Saturday or Sunday. Sacramento defeated San Diego 4-0 late Saturday. United needed a win and a Sacramento loss to earn a home playoff game.

Saturday’s announced attendance of 14,519 was New Mexico’s largest crowd of the season. It was a festive night for the black-clad “Blackout Night” fans long before a postgame fireworks show began.

Nava, making his first appearance since an August injury, converted on an outstanding individual effort to put the hosts up 1-0 in the 21st minute. He chested the ball past Colorado Springs goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell, then tipped it by defender Triston Hodge before putting it home with a sliding shot.

“It’s taken a lot for Cristian to come back from his injury,” United coach Zach Prince said. “He and Brucey both played great games. Both of those guys have been showing up early and staying late at training, even when they weren’t playing as much. They’ve been total professionals and it paid off for them tonight.”

Bruce followed up Nava’s goal in the 44th minute, collecting a pass from Will Seymore inside the box, turning and tapping the ball to an open area and blasting it into the upper right corner. The goal brought loud chants of “Bruuuuuce” from the crowd and proved to be all NMU would need to secure its second straight win and head into the USL Championship playoffs with momentum.

“A home playoff game is something we wanted,” Prince said, “but I’m not disappointed at all with the season. These guys have put in the work and now we’re going to the postseason with momentum, which is crucial this time of year. We’re playing with confidence, now we have to go take advantage of it.”

United defender Kalen Ryden was equally pleased to come away from Saturday’s match with a clean sheet. The Switchbacks (17-13-4), seeded third in the Western Conference, are among the USLC’s most explosive clubs.

“Everyone did their jobs tonight,” Ryden said. “We had conceded five goals in the previous two games and I always want to see a clean sheet. It’s so good to see us put that together against a dangerous team with a lot of dangerous players.”

Playoff game times will be announced early this week.

NEW MEXICO UNITED 2, COLORADO SPRINGS SWITCHBACKS FC 0
Colorado Springs 0     0 — 0
New Mexico 2    0 — 2
Scoring: NM, 21st, Cristian Nava (Kalen Ryden); NM, 44th, Daniel Bruce (Will Seymore). Shots: CS 7, NM 4. Shots on goal: CS 4, NM 2. Corner kicks: CS 3, NM 0. Goalkeeper saves: NM (Alex Tambakis) 4, CS (Jeff Caldwell) 0. Records: NM 13-9-12, CS 17-13-4.

STANDINGS: USL Championship standings

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