New Mexico United tied 1-1 against San Diego Loyal in their first match in Albuquerque on Saturday, April 15. The two teams have now tied in their past four matchups. Through four matches this season, United has a record of 1-1-2.
Fans had to wait six weeks into the season for the team to come back home. They showed up to support the team in droves with 11,233 in attendance Saturday night.
Head coach Zach Prince praised the team's effort and credited Sam Hamilton's bounce-back performance after an uncharacteristic game against Monterey Bay.
"I love the way we started the game: super aggressive. Love Sammy getting a goal and responding after last week. He had a giveaway, and he's disappointed with himself. Such a resilient person. Really happy for him to get a goal, and I love the way we really, all night, felt very dangerous," Prince said.
All of the scoring was done in the first half. United's man of the match — team captain and midfielder Hamilton — gave the team an early lead in the game, scoring their only goal while playing solid defense throughout. The team failed to hold on to the lead, though, with San Diego’s Evan Conway tying the game right at the end of the half.
New Mexico put up 17 shots in the match and held San Diego to just 11. United won the possession battle early, but San Diego stepped up their offense in the second half to earn 51% possession in the game. New Mexico had four yellow cards while San Diego had three, but one of those yellow cards ended up costing New Mexico: it gave up a free kick that resulted in a goal.
At the nine-minute mark, Hamilton scored the team's lone goal to give United an early lead. The team overwhelmed San Diego with a constant barrage of attacks after two back-to-back saves from San Diego.
With one minute of extra time in the first half, Sergio Rivas was called for a yellow card to set up a free kick for San Diego at the end of the half. Charlie Adams passed to Conway who scored with a header to tie the game to end the half 1-1.
At halftime, United was holding on to lead the possession battle 54% to 46% but were given three yellow cards. Both teams put up seven shots in the half.
United didn't score in the second half, but they had plenty of good looks at the goal. At the 55-minute mark, Kalen Riden received a pass in front of the goal from Josh Suggs but his header bounced just right of the goal.
San Diego's goalie Koke Vegas had an incredible sequence blocking a shot from Greg Hurst and two from Santi Moar in the span of two minutes. Vegas then forced a free kick to go over the goal and gave his team the ball.
United's next best scoring attempt took place in stoppage time. 96 minutes into the game, Hamilton passed to Hurst through defenders, but Hurst's shot was blocked and set up a corner kick to end the game. New Mexico didn't get another shot off but came close to stealing the game multiple times.
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After the game, Ryden commented on how it felt to be back playing in Albuquerque.
"It's always incredible playing here at Isotopes (Park). It's been so long. Technically, it's week six of the season, so just now getting to play home at week six — it feels like we started the season so long ago and just now got to play at home. It's a special place here, the best place in the (United Soccer League), and I'm so happy I get to call it home," Ryden said.
New Mexico United's next home game is on Wednesday, April 26. They are hosting rival Phoenix Rising FC in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thomasbulger10