New Mexico United Position Preview: Defenders/Keepers

The back line started off hot last year giving up only 14 goals in the first half of the season (17 matches). They faded down the stretch however, giving up 27 goals in the second half. Alexis Souahy, Rashid Tetteh and Raddy Ovouka have moved on leaving a returning core of Kalen Ryden, William Seymore, Austin Yearwood, Harry Swartz, and Josh Suggs.

Kalen Ryden vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks

Kalen is returning for his 4th season with United. He picked up a knock early last season and never really looked like himself again. In the lone preseason match I was able to attend he looked like he was back and that will go a long way in determining how good this defense is this season.

Austin, who is criminally underrated, might be our best defender. He has been one of the best fullbacks in the league that doesn’t get any recognition outside of New Mexico. If he can perform as well this year as he has the past 2 the league won’t be able to ignore him.

Seymore was looked at as a midfielder by many when joining this team last season. He quickly cemented himself as a defensive stalwart after Ryden went down though. Now he projects as a starting CB for us alongside Kalen.

Harry and Suggs are both players who like to bomb down the wings and really have to cover a lot of ground with the position that they play. Suggs and Austin should split time on the left with Suggs being an elder statesman back there.

Timothie Zali and Kyle Colonna are the lone additions to the back line. Zali is a a 6’5” center back from Sweden who has long dreamed of playing in a big league. He made the move to an American side in hopes of reaching that dream. He adds much needed height to the back line and jumped to the moon to score a header in the preseason. The only concern I have with him is he has a very thin frame that could pose problems against some stronger forwards in this league.

Kyle Colonna is fresh off 4 seasons at San Diego State where he was a captain his senior year. The 6’3” centerback looked solid this preseason and really impressed me in the match that I was able to attend. Between him and Zali we have some depth back there but could use another body. Wyparlo might be able to play in the back as well depending on circumstances.

That just leaves the keepers. Alex Tambakis is back for his 3rd season in black and yellow. He has the ability to be a league best goalie and we will need him stay in the top half of keepers in order to compete. He made some incredible stops but also gave up a few that should have been saved. That’s every keeper aside from Jordan Farr though. Backing up Alex is Alb. native Ford Parker. Ford had to step into action early last season and looked good with Alex injured. He’s a solid backup who can start in a pinch.

Kalen and Alex are going to be the keys to having a great defense. If they can reach their peak levels then we will be well above average. That being said, I have some doubts that they can. If they can’t then we will need the offense to carry us.

New Mexico United Position Preview: Midfield

Justin Portillo was a star in the midfield last season for United. JP led the team in goals with 8 and in assists with 5. Defensively he was great at putting out fires before they even got started, he was good with set piece deliveries and was nails from the penalty spot. He returns for the 2023 season, which already puts the midfield in good shape.

Justin Portillo takes a corner against OCSC

Also returning is defensive mid Sam Hamilton. Sam had a rough end to the season but was arguably our best defensive mid for more than the first half of the campaign. I expect him to return to that form and for him to be the player we have seen the majority of his 4 seasons with United. Sergio Rivas returns as well. The former member of the Albuquerque Sol returns for his 3rd season with United. Injuries have limited his ability to fully find his form and he’s starting out injured already this season. He has had moments of brilliance for this club though and is a solid player both in attack and defense.

Daniel Bruce and Chris Wehan round out the midfield returners. Wehan in a big time number 10 when he is right. Last season might have been a down year but we know the talent is there and with Santi Moar returning and another year with Zach Prince’s system United need him to have a huge bounce back year for the former Lobo.

Bruce is a menace in the attack often collecting long diagonals in open space and finding the open striker or taking on a defender one on one. That’s not all he is capable of though. He has played as a fullback at times and that versatility means he should see the pitch plenty this season. He has been on fire this preseason, 4 goals to lead the team. I look for that to continue going into the regular season.

United has added a few names this off-season including “new” names, Andres Robles and Miles Merritt. Both young guys are on academy contracts. You probably recognize the names if you have followed the academy at all. They have both been featured some this preseason but I expect them both to choose the college route and will only make a few appearances for the first team.

We did have some trialists in the midfield this preseason including Milo Gravanian, Michael Wyparlo, and Josa Sosa. The later 2 have officially signed with the club and the former might not be far behind. Wyparlo figures to be a defensive mid that can spell Sam and could also feature on the back line. Sosa figured to be more of a box to box type and might spell Portillo when needed.

This midfield has a wide variety of players and can conform to a few different formations. I look at Wehan and Hamilton as the important pieces. They both need bounce back seasons in order for United to compete for a shield or cup. The young guys will add depth when needed and we know what Bruce, Rivas and Portillo can bring. All in all it is a solid but unremarkable midfield.

New Mexico United Position Preview: Forwards

A ton of changes were made to the front line this off-season. Injuries and mid season accusations were the stories last year. New Mexico finished the season tied for 15th in the USL Championship with 49 goals. That’s not a terrible number but when you factor in the 7 goal outburst against Phoenix and names like Neco Brett, Kevon Frater, Romario Williams and Jerome Kiesewetter it’s a little disappointing.

Cristian Nava training at Media Day 2023

So this off-season Zach Prince and his staff decided to make wholesale changes to the attack. All of the above names are gone, as is Devon Sandoval, retired, and Preston Tabort Etaka, now in Las Vegas. That leaves returning players  Armando Moreno and Cristian Nava. Although midfielders Chris Wehan, and Daniel Bruce could feature in a more forward role returning as well.

To that stable of returning players United added a familiar face, getting Santi Moar in a trade with Phoenix Rising. Santi, coming off a down year last year, had strong underlying numbers and his overall body of work in the USL is fantastic. In 2021 he was top 10 in goals with 16. He added 4 assists while leading the best offense in the league. In a separate deal with Rising, United added Forward Greg Hurst. Hurst joined Phoenix last season after a stellar stint with Union Omaha of USL 1. Hurst, like all of Phoenix, had a down season but showed flashes including scoring in his debut with Phoenix. Him and Santi have linked up this preseason and are 2 pieces that will play a huge role this season.

Joining them is 25 year old Josh Dolling. Josh joins us from St. Louis City 2 where he had 8 goals in 21 appearances. The England native had shown out this preseason scoring 3 goals including a brace against El Paso. One last name that I personally think will play a large role in the attack is academy product Alex Waggoner. Alex won the Golden Boot at the USL academy playoffs in Tampa Bay last November finishing with 6 goals and 2 assists in only 4 matches. The Taos native has looked great this preseason and at 6’2” he has the size to really compete in this league. He has potential to bust out this season and be our first player to be sold on.

The preseason doesn’t always translate to regular season success but United looked very dangerous in the warm up matches. Zach has mentioned multiple times this preseason that the team had better chemistry and that the players have fully bought in to the Team mentality. We have seen that lead to goals so far and it is a theme that should translate to the regular season. Because of that I can see United finishing in the top 10 in goals scored. There is a lot to be excited about going into the season and I can’t wait to see what Hurst, Waggoner, and Dolling can add.