New Mexico United defeated Charleston Battery with a score of 2-1 Monday night at Isotopes Stadium. This was the first time that United has faced Charleston and only the second match that they have ever played against an Eastern Conference team.
This edition of “Monday Night Fútbol” at Isotopes park began tentatively as the teams got familiar with each other. The clubs exchanged minor advances, but not much action went beyond the midfield line.
The first real scoring opportunity came from NM United in the 7th minute, but Charleston was able to deflect the ball out of play before it reached the goaltender. Charleston came back with their own chance in the 13th minute, but New Mexico goalie Alex Tambakis slammed the door on the opportunity and kept the game scoreless.
Two minutes later, NM United repaid their goalie’s key save with a header goal scored by United defender Kalen Ryden off of a corner kick, bringing the score to 1-0.
NM United continued to press their attack after the opening goal, creating multiple scoring opportunities throughout the first half. Charleston, on the other hand, was stifled for a majority of the first half after being smothered by United’s defense.
Charleston’s persistence paid off, however, as forward Claudio Repetto finally broke through with a goal in the 38th minute, which evened the score to 1-1.
Things began to get chippy between the two clubs in the 41st minute as two yellow cards were handed out — one to NM United midfielder Juan Pablo Guzman and another to Charleston’s midfielder Angelo Kelly. After the altercation, the two clubs ended scoreless in stoppage time and entered the locker rooms tied 1-1.
The second half started similar to the first, with both teams keeping the majority of play at midfield.
NM United was able to break the deadlock in the 52nd minute, after forward Devon Sandoval locked in a goal shot, even after Charleston’s initial save. This put the score at 2-1.
After pulling ahead, New Mexico was able to put the clamps down on Charleston, with defenders constantly swarming the ball carrier. Battery was only able to get sparse shots on net and none were able to connect, resulting in a 2-1 victory for New Mexico.
An altercation following the conclusion of the match resulted in five yellow cards — four to NM United and one to Charleston — and one red card to Charleston rookie Burke Fahling.
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During the postgame press conference, head coach Troy Lesesne recognized the history that both he and other members of the organization share with Charleston; Lesesne, first assistant coach Zach Prince, and players Tambakis and Micheal Azira are all former Charleston players.
“The best way to show respect for an opponent that is near and dear to my heart (and others’) … is to go and make it a difficult game for them, and we did that,” Lesesne said.
As far as goal scoring went that night, Ryden said the goals were all due to Prince, who helped design a lot of the set pieces that led to the scores.
“(Prince) puts together all of our set pieces, tries to exploit areas on our opponents, so most of the things you see are by design,” Ryden said.
The night was highlighted by the return of Albuquerque native Sandoval to the score sheet. Sandoval netted the game-winning goal for New Mexico and said in the postgame presser that he never gets tired of scoring in front of his hometown crowd.
The win secured NM United three more points in their overall standing, moving them to a total of 20 points on the season. That point total currently has them ranked third in the USL Mountain Division, only a point behind the two top teams, Rio Grande Valley FC and El Paso Locomotive FC.
NM United will have plenty of time to rest before they hit the road to face San Antonio FC next Wednesday.
Gino Gutierrez is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @GGutierrez48