After about an hour of weather delay, the New Mexico United bested the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC with a score of 3-1 on Friday at Isotopes Park.
The two squads spent the opening minutes of the match feeling each other out. After NM United missed three early scoring opportunities, the first goal of the match came off of a free kick by Sergio Rivas late in the 16th minute that put NM United up 1-0.
The match quickly became contentious, and both teams received yellow cards in the first half.
Colorado earned itself plenty of chances after NM United’s goal to even the match, but New Mexico employed a suffocating defense, tracking the Switchbacks’ ball carrier wherever they went and encircling them.
Switchbacks forward Hadji Barry eventually evened the score 1-1 with a goal in the 33rd minute.
Just after that, an injury to NM United defender Sam Hamilton quieted the arena; Hamilton was helped off the field into an ambulance by team training staff.
After that lull in the contest and silence in the stadium, the crowd was reinvigorated by an exciting sequence to end the first half, as New Mexico failed to bury a close shot and nearly gave a goal to the Switchbacks off of a center-field turnover. The half ended tied 1-1.
The second half saw physical play from both teams, and emotions escalated into a red card for Colorado Springs defender Sebastian Anderson for cutting a NM United player down from behind.
NM United pressed their attack early in the second half, coming close on a chance in the 57th minute, only to see the ball swatted away by the Switchbacks’ goaltender.
New Mexico’s main source of offensive charges ultimately came off of stretch passes designed to get Colorado Springs out of position. On Colorado’s end, offensive opportunities were few and far between, and timely saves by NM United goalkeeper Alex Tambakis kept the game tied.
New Mexico played the majority of the late second half in the Switchbacks’ end of the field but continued missing chance after chance.
It wasn’t until the 91st minute that New Mexico was able to break the stalemate when Micheal Azira, a recent addition to the ream, scored a header off of a corner kick. New Mexico grew their new lead two minutes later with another goal from forward Ilija Ilić.
The match ended with NM United up 3-1, improving their season record to 5-2-5.
After the game, head coach Tory Lesesne began the press conference with an update on the injured Hamilton, and said the team hopes the injury is a sprain rather than any bone break.
“Right now, we’re trying to determine exactly what the situation is for him; we don’t have anything definitive right now,” Lesesne said.
He continued by saying the team rallied around Hamilton and dedicated the win and the three points to him.
“We got the three points tonight for him,” Lesesne said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
When it came to the saves made by Tambakis, Lesesne praised his goalie for making “top, top saves,” and said those saves gave the team a chance to win the game.
NM United now faces a quick turnaround as they welcome Lesesne’s former team, the 3-3-3 Charleston Battery, to Isotopes Park on Monday. This will be the first and only matchup between the two teams this season.
Gino Gutierrez is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @GGutierrez48