The train from Spain stayed mainly on frame.
New Mexico United's undefeated start to their inaugural season continued Saturday night at Isotopes Park as the club humiliated visiting Real Monarchs of Salt Lake City to the tune of 5-1. Spaniard Santi Moar, the reigning USL Championship player of the month, recorded his first professional career hat trick to lead the home side to a cruise control victory.
There was a different level of energy on the night than was evident in United's first six fixtures. New Mexico head coach and technical director Troy Lesesne attributed their success to a growing camaraderie and the unyielding support of the 12,327 on hand to witness the match.
"I think what you're seeing is a group that's bought in — they believe in what we're doing," Lesesne said. "When you play in front of 12,000+, I think you don't have a choice but to show up and try to take responsibility for what the crowd and their energy brings. You want to reciprocate that, and you really want to give that back to this community."
Lining up in a fluid 4-2-3-1, United's high press did no favors to the visitors, who seemed stifled and unsure of themselves at the outset. Moar provided a constant threat down the left flank, regularly frustrating defenders with his pace and quick footwork.
Although New Mexico were comfortable in possession early on in the first half, it would be Real that opened the scoring in the 16th minute. After a quick transition from midfield, Josh Heard sent a cross into the box from the right touchline that found the head of the Monarchs' Lionel Etoundi. Jack Blake was positioned well to settle the ball and sent a first time half volley beyond the reach of United keeper Cody Mizell.
New Mexico would be quick to equalize, however, and the floodgates were blown open soon after. A corner won by Moar and taken by UNM men's soccer product Chris Wehan caromed through bodies in the six yard box and found the right foot of Moar at the far post for an easy tap in at the 24th minute. Moar would bag a brace four minutes later after bringing down a Wehan floater at the corner of the 18-yard box and smashing a laser past a helpless David Ochoa in goal. The Wehan-Moar connection shone through again in the 39th minute as the Spaniard took control of a lovely through ball and slotted home under the legs of Ochoa for the hat trick.
"It was an emotional moment," Moar said after the final whistle sounded into the New Mexico night. "I think I pointed to this shield (the New Mexico United crest on his jersey) because it means a lot (to) the whole community."
Kevaughn Frater sealed the three points and put a cap on the first half scoring with a stoppage time header, ensuring the result with 45 minutes to spare.
While the first half featured a relentless high press from United that effectively dismantled Real's defense, the three goal cushion saw the home side sit back during the second half, ceding the majority of possession to the visitors. Lesesne was ambivalent in assessing his club's performance coming out of the locker room but was nonetheless pleased with the result.
"That's something we're continuing to fine tune," Lesesne said. "I thought we came out in the second half and it wasn't as lively as the first half, but I thought that we maintained really good defensive shape and continued to disrupt them a lot in the beginning of the second half.
The men in black whiled away the remaining minutes with a confidence derived from their insurmountable lead. Wehan put the finishing touches on the final scoreline after Ochoa came well off his line in an attempt to stave off a Devon Sandoval counter but botched the play, leaving the ball in space for Wehan to easily find the back of the empty net.
Three things to take away
The big picture:
The win vaulted United to second place in the Western Conference table. The club is one of just five that remain unbeaten in the league, and they extend their expansion club record of unbeaten matches to start a season to seven.
Man of the match:
Santi Moar's hat trick nominates him by default. The 25-year-old consistently got behind Real Monarchs' back line; terrific service from his teammates was a contributing factor, of course, but without clinical finishing the result would have been much different. United can only benefit going forward from the man very much in form — a near perfect performance from the Spaniard.
United travel to Nevada to take on Reno 1868 FC on April 20 at 8 p.m.
Andrew Gunn is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @agunnwrites.