New Mexico United remained undefeated at home, running its record on the season to 6-1-7 overall after playing OKC Energy FC to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday evening in its "Pride on the Pitch" match at Isotopes Park.
The team announced an attendance of 13,574 for the mid-week fixture as fans filed into the stadium to venue to celebrate . Prior to the match, it was announced that the first 5,000 fans would receive a limited-edition New Mexico United rainbow flag.
Fans got to see an upstart pace in the opening half and saw New Mexico cash in on a corner kick just prior to halftime.
Chris Wehan sent the ball into the box and it appeared as though United defender Justin Schmidt headed a goal into the far corner for the game's first goal. But it was actually Devon Sandoval who was able to redirect the ball past the keeper, who was caught flat-footed.
Sandoval said they had been working on set pieces and were able to capitalize by being on the same page and score on one tonight.
United took the 1-0 lead into halftime, something head coach Troy Lesesne credited to the first-half defensive effort in the postgame conference.
"I thought that defensively, we limited a lot in the first half," he said. "In the second half, I think we got away from our style of play."
Lesesne said there were a lot of foul calls in the second half and the pace of place really slowed down. He seemed to indicate those things worked in OKC Energy's favor, mentioning how good the opponents were with first and second balls and attacking in transition.
NM United goal keeper Cody Mizell did his best to deny the Energy the opportunity at finding the equalizer, making an athletic save early in the second half.
United had a promising scoring opportunity in the 69th minute, but was unable to penetrate the defense of the keeper — who managed to get a glove on a Santi Moar shot attempt.
And eventually OKC did find the tying goal a few minutes past the midway point of the second half when Deshorn Brown evened the tally at 1-1 in the 73rd minute.
Both goalkeepers were asked to make stops in order to preserve the score and were up to the task as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
With the decision, NM United remained atop the Western Conference of the USL Championship standings with 25 points — three points clear of second-place Portland Timbers 2. While OKC Energy FC moved into a five-way tie with 20 points, though it currently sits seventh in the standings due to goal differential.
United obviously could have benefited from the three points that would have some with a win, but had to settle for the tie. Lesesne said the tactics don't really change regarding the cup matches and the goal will be to try to secure wins, while finding the right mix on the roster to do so.
New Mexico will remain home and host Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday, June 8 at Isotopes Park. The match is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start time.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler