2020 Season Preview Part 1: Reflecting on the Past

As New Mexico United and their supporters gear up for the club’s sophomore season, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020. But in order to understand how the club got to this point, we have to look back. Not only at the 2019 season, but also at the changes that were made in the offseason. 

2019 was a year that United will never forget. From making a deep Open Cup run to the poor midseason form and then a trip to the playoffs there were so many memories made. 

For those of us that covered and followed the club, there was a lot to look back on during the offseason while we waited for the inevitable roster changes. It was interesting to see how the narratives changed from midseason discussions to those in the offseason. Now that we have some distance from the 2019 season, it’s easier to look back on it without the rose-colored glasses from the excitement of the new feel. With that in mind, we reached out to some friends of the site to get their opinions on how they felt about the freshman effort from the club.

Joining our panel this week we have Josh Carrillo (ProView Networks), Earl (Somos Unidos News), Jacob, and myself.

Photo By Jacob Terrell

Do you think the deep Open Cup run affected conference play? Would you have preferred it not be a focus?

Josh Carrillo: Yes, I believe United focused a lot of energy and time on the open Cup, yes it’s nice to be competitive with MLS Squads, but not even MLS Squads take it seriously. I think it took focus away from being competitive in conference play.

Seth Biddulph: I absolutely think it affected conference play. If you look at the run that we made, we were one of two USL clubs to make it to the quarterfinals last season, and both struggled with their midseason form and nearly caused both of them to miss the USL Playoffs (St Louis FC actually did). United was at, or near the top of the league before the Cup run and tired legs, coupled with a smaller roster, led to a midseason slump.

Sure, it was great exposure for the club and I think that’s great, but we didn’t have the depth to keep up the quality of play in both competitions.

Earl Nieto: I do feel the Open Cup run (as amazing as it was) contributed negatively to League play. I feel like, yes, we should have focused on it, but when our League play started slipping, we should have shifted focus to League play.

Did New Mexico United change your life and if so, how?

Seth: United definitely changed my life for the better. I’ve been a football fan for a few years but never had a club close enough that I could attend matches. With United, it not only gave me a chance to see a club up close, but it allowed me to follow a passion and explore journalism again. It’s also allowed me to develop relationships with people I never would have met otherwise. 

Earl: New Mexico United did change my life. It opened my eyes to another realm of American sports that I had never witnessed before. It also provided me with new friends as well as this experience of Somos Unidos News.

Jacob Terrell: More than I can explain here. It got my creative juices flowing. With both writing and photography. Plus the people that I have met along the way are incredible. 

With all the excitement around the club and it’s first year, before they even started playing, what were your expectations of the club?

Josh: Not going to lie, I wasn’t expecting much, growing up in New Mexico, I’ve seen teams come and go, Scorpions, Slam, Stars, etc. I was afraid this team would be terrible and fans would disappear.

Earl: First off, I did NOT expect 15,000 people to pack Isotopes Park on a regular basis. I knew New Mexico United would be a success, but more along the lines of UNM Lobos basketball successful. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be saying an average of 12000 in New Mexico.

Jacob: I have no idea. I thought there was a chance it could be a hit. I didn’t think it would be nearly as big as it got though. As far as on the field I didn’t know anyone on the club seeing as I wasn’t a soccer fan before but from what I was able to read I thought playoffs were a real possibility. 

Where do you think the front office succeeded and/or made significant improvements throughout the season?

Tifo for ‘El Jefe’ Photo by Jacob Terrell

Josh: I think the front office did a heck of a job with advertising and promotion for this squad. I believe they got the team hyped up and made fans believe in the United.

Seth: Early in the season there were a number of issues with entry into the stadium. Looking out from the Press Level, we would see lines stretching down to Avenida Cesar Chavez after kickoff. The club stepped up and figured out a way to improve the matchday experience and get the supporters into the park faster. From the beginning though, the club’s marketing and social media teams were incredible, from interacting with supporters on social media to the marketing blitz they put out, they really made it feel like the club belonged to the state and drummed up a ton of excitement. 

Jacob: I think the message they are working to spread and the meaning behind the name United were the perfect thing for this state. I think they did a great job adapting to the success of the club. I think they exceeded their own expectations and they weren’t fully prepared for that but they handled it well. 

How did you feel coach Troy did in his first season as a head coach/technical director?  

Seth: It’s easy to armchair manage and second guess Troy’s decisions. We all did it at times. There are a lot of factors to take into account though; the roster, schedule, injuries, and suspensions. Troy navigated all of that while maintaining a Bill Belichek type of attitude when it came to keeping details close to the vest. I think he did a great job and the players really responded to his coaching style and the system he wanted to run. 

Earl: I personally think Coach Troy did amazing with what he had in his first year as Head Coach and Technical Director. He had adversity to overcome early in the season, he had a learning curve with the AMAZING Open Cup run and balancing League play, he had to learn how to create chemistry with the players as well as build player to player chemistry, in a league where personalities are impossible to merge and egos are tough to break. But he did just that, he created a powerhouse that ran the USL for the better part of the first half of the season, but then Open Cup play happened and it tripped some things up.

Jacob: I think he did a great job considering the circumstances. The Open Cup run plus the fact we made the playoffs means he was doing something right. The inability to close out leads and turn them to wins is unsettling but I don’t think all of those can be blamed on Troy. 

Be sure to check back on Saturday, when our panel discusses the offseason moves of the club.