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.