"All things must pass — none of life's strings can last."
So sang George Harrison on his seminal composition in 1970, and so ended New Mexico United's season-opening undefeated streak at Greater Nevada Field on Saturday night as Reno 1868 FC handed the visitors a 2-1 loss.
United (3-1-4) seemed destined to pick up the road draw after effectively shutting down Reno (3-1-3) for most of the second half, but the fates had other designs. Duke Lacroix sealed the win and crushed the spirits of the New Mexico side with an 89th minute curler from the top of the penalty area, granting the hosts three points by the narrowest of margins.
With a lineup unchanged from last week's methodical rout of Real Monarchs SLC, the visitors imposed their will early on in the week 7 proceedings. Reno, however, struck first on the night after some fine buildup play down the right flank by Corey Hertzog. United captain Josh Suggs overran his mark, and the space allowed Hertzog's pass to find the run of Cibola High School graduate Sergio Rivas at the corner of the 18-yard box. The former Albuquerque Sol man unleashed a low ball that dipped under the outstretched arms of United netminder Cody Mizell, who was late to react to the first time effort.
The halftime whistle found the score knotted at one after a spectacular piece of individual effort by Suggs at the 39th minute. The Las Cruces native took a pass from Juan Guzmán near midfield and wasted no time in turning on the jets — his solo run saw him outpace a Reno defender and split two others before smashing home off the bottom of the crossbar from 20 yards.
United failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities to take the lead throughout the game — seven of the night's 15 shots were on target, but a lead never materialized. A poor clearance early on from Reno shotstopper JT Marcinkowski deflected straight onto an onrushing Chris Wehan, who somehow botched the gift wrapped chance and sent the ball wide of the post. Several times over the course of the 90 minutes, clear looks at goal went for naught as shots on target were directed straight at Marcinkowski.
United's efforts to find an equalizer after the demoralizing strike from Lacroix in the dying minutes of the second half came up short in the end. The 3,656 on hand in Reno celebrated their club's first home win in over a month — the dose of momentum will spur confidence ahead of a road tilt against woeful El Paso Locomotive FC, who currently occupy the bottom of the table in the west. New Mexico supporters at watch parties around Albuquerque were left disappointed, but anecdotal accounts indicate that fans remain resolute in their backing of the club.
"This state and her people love and support you through wins and losses alike," New Mexico supporters group The Curse posted on Twitter following the defeat. "We're back at it in six days with (first) place on the line."
"Now, and always, #SomosUnidos."
The big picture:
The loss didn't damage United's position in the Western Conference standings, although the club may come to rue dropping points in a match that could have easily been won with better composure in the final third. As it stands, the playoff eligible teams in the west all have at least a game in hand on New Mexico, meaning their opportunities to gain ground and perhaps surpass New Mexico as the schedule shakes out is concerning.
Man of the match:
Josh Suggs displayed some of the reasoning behind head coach Troy Lesesne's decision to award him the honor of the captain's armband. The lone goal for United was a brilliant show of individual technical ability, and although he was partially responsible for Reno's first goal, the defender made sure to make up for it before the first half was in the books.
New Mexico have a home fixture at Isotopes Park on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. against first place Portland Timbers 2. A matchup with huge implications, both clubs will look to make a statement to the rest of the league on who plans to flex their superiority with the young season rolling into May.