Under a smoldering Albuquerque sun, New Mexico United returned to Isotopes Park on Saturday, June 12 for a 0-0 draw against Austin Bold FC.
Alongside the game, the night was themed “Pride on the Pitch,” supported by 9,288 fans that came to show their pride; the game was completely sold out within its 75% maximum capacity restriction.
A tentative game to start, both teams spent the majority of the first half feeling each other out, trading good scoring opportunities at both ends of the field.
The ball was skyed on more than one occasion by each team, as the respective defenses swarmed the player who possessed the ball. Austin saw most of their offensive opportunities come off of fast breaks whereas New Mexico relied more on their ability to maintain control of the ball and create scoring opportunities with passing and corner kicks.
New Mexico dominated possession in the first half, controlling the ball 76% of the time, according to a press release sent out on Saturday. They also led in with six shots compared to Austin’s five shots on net. Bold FC has struggled to produce offense this season, scoring only five goals in the season by this point.
New Mexico started the second half picking up right where they left off in the first, with precision passing leading to prime scoring opportunities. Still, each chance was thwarted by a last second defensive play by Bold FC.
United continued to press Austin throughout the second half. However, blocked shots, shooting the ball over the net and some saves by Austin goalkeeper Elliot Panicco kept them off the board. Even five minutes of overtime didn’t provide any scores for either team.
In the team’s postgame press conference, head coach Troy Lesesne commented on both the positives and negatives of the match’s result.
“There’s another clean sheet on the board and a lot of initiative about trying to create movement high up the field in different ways,” Lesesne said.
New Mexico struggled to produce offense, which Lesesne attributed to the team’s lack of easy scoring opportunities.
United defender Josh Suggs said he kept reiterating the message to his teammates to keep pressing their offensive attack.
"I think the main thing that I tried to reiterate to the guys is to just keep going,” Suggs said. “I was saying 'It's coming. It's coming,' and obviously it didn't, but we also didn't let up.”
With the draw in the books, United now stands with a record of 3-2-2, which currently puts them in third place in the United Soccer League Mountain Division. Shifting their focus to the future, New Mexico United finds themselves on a quick turnaround to prepare for their next game against San Antonio FC on Wednesday, June 16.
United goalkeeper Alex Tambakis said the team’s performance Saturday night was something to build on, and Lensense said the team would focus on physical recovery as well as mental preparation for the next game.
“I think we did a pretty good job. We can do better of course,” Tambakis said. “Right now, we have another game on Wednesday, so we're going to be ready to go and win that game.”
Gino Gutierrez is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @GGutierrez48