Preview Questions Part II: Offseason Moves

We are now a day away from the season opener. Let’s dive into the offseason with part two of our season preview! Again we have Jacob, Earl, and Seth, along with Adriana Cortina from the spanish broadcast and Andy Hageman from the radio broadcast.

SAFC 2020 New Mexico United plays San Antonio FC during the first half of a USL Championship playoff soccer match, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. (Darren Abate/USL Championship)
  1. A lot of turnover can be expected in a league like the USLC but United have kept 12 players from last year including 9 for all three seasons. What is the importance of that and which one of the returning players has had the most impact?

Seth Biddulph: The biggest thing about players returning is their knowledge of what Troy wants to do. It’s easier to build off of a handful of guys than a brand new or almost new roster. With that being said, Kalen returning will probably have the biggest impact. He’s a coach on the pitch and his understanding improves everyone around him.

Adriana Cortina: It is very important to keep a solid team. After so long, they learned to play together, understand each other and what’s most important, they love the fans and the fans love them. We hate to  see someone go. Definitely Devon Sandoval. He means a lot to the community. Not only is he a native but he represents our culture, family, and Unity. He is an icon to the state, the organization and of course to the soccer community.

Earl Nieto: It is super important to keep continuity within any organization. The fact that Untied has been able to keep a MAJORITY of the core of 2019, take that group into 2020, and bring a good portion of that group back in 2021, speaks volumes as to what Coach Troy is selling to these guys, but more importantly, just what kind of organization New Mexico United is. It is hard to single out a single individual returning as both seasons were completely different. From the 2019 squad, I would have to say Dev. Dev is an important key to our offensive success, and having him back both seasons, provides leadership in a club that seems to be getting younger. From the 2020 group, I would have to say Justin. With Justin’s return from a yearlong injury, it provides defensive help to a group that last season did not have the depth that they needed. Kalen will be able to take a break (if he wants), Suggs can take time if needed. I think with Schmidt returning, it opens doors to different avenues of success. 

Andy Hageman: The spine of the team from Kalen forward remains, with Tinny and JPG in midfield and Big Dev up front. They will all help the newbies settle in which is good. We have players from all over the world and so a common voice that mirrors the Coaches words is a good thing. I will go with Tinny and JPG because without a solid midfield all is lost.

Jacob Terrell: Continuity is a must if you want to win a championship. That’s why MLS 2 teams struggle to be consistent year after year. Troy wants a contender not just in 2021 but in 2022 and beyond. Bringing back the likes of Kalen Ryden, Amando Moreno, and all of the native New Mexicans is vital to the club being a championship contender.

  1. Wehan and Mizell are obviously huge losses this offseason. Do you feel like the club has done a good job of retooling the roster to replace them? And who actually replaces Mizell as our starting keeper.

Seth: Losing your #1 is always hard. Cody was a fan favorite and a leader on the pitch. The same can be said for Beez. Beez did it all, from tracking back to being one of our better threats in 2020. You can never replace a person of their caliber and they will absolutely be missed. That being said, there’s a lot of talent that was brought in this year and the players that have signed should be more than capable of stepping in. 

Adriana: I was always in favor of seeing more of Phillip Beigl in the previous seasons. Losing Mizell to an  MLS team was a loss but also feels like a win. We can now say NM United has top, quality players that will move up to bigger things. And we are proud of them. I feel confident that our 2 goalies are prepared for the job. In general, I am pleased with the selection of the new players and the ones that stayed, they all are very qualified, skilled, experienced and multicultural. Just by watching the preseason matches I can see how well they are adapting, fitting in with their teammates and understanding NM United’s mission.  

Earl: Losing both Wehan and Mizell is a  huge blow to United. But I also feel that the club brought in new faces that  want to fill that gap. With the acquisition of Alex Tambakis and the likes of Sergio Rivas, Brian Brown, and Ilija Ilic, all the “holes “ that we were left with recently are  filled. To answer the burning question about starting keeper… God only knows. Both Alex and Phil are incredible keepers. Both are smart, and both have proven they can do things between the sticks. I hope it is Phil, but would not be hard pressed if it were Alex. 

Andy: The talk was that Timbakis will stroll into the role. But Big Phil will do his best if he gets the call to steal the #1 jersey. A couple of years ago the Manchester United keeper was hailed as the best in the world…this year he is fighting for his place. Taking anything for granted in sport shortens your career.

Jacob: I can’t fault Wehan going back home to Orange County and it’s great for both Mizell and United that he moved on to the MLS. The players that the club has brought in to replace Wehan have fit in seamlessly so far in the preseason and because of that i think the attack will be better than ever this year. Tambakis and Beigl seem to have a great competition going for that number 1 spot. My belief is that Big Phil will get the nod on May 1st but whoever it is has to know that one slip up could cost them that spot.

  1. I asked about the biggest weakness of 2020. Do you feel like the club has done a good job of fixing that? And if so how?
Romeo Oh Romeo Photo Courtesy of Phoenix Rising

Seth: So far this preseason the changes that have been made seem to be working. Michael Azira has joined and is another defensive minded player that can drop back to help fill in the gaps. 

Adriana: Yes, going back to the addition of Kalen Ryden and with Justin Schmidt coming out fully  recovered from an injury, along with Yearwood, Tetteh, Hamilton and Touche, sounds like a very strong defense, but the real fight will be in the mid field. Makes me wonder who our starting 11 will be. We have great competition amongst these players.

 Earl: Like before, I felt the midfield was our biggest weakness. But we answered that call by adding multiple midfielders, both attacking and defensive. We added depth to a group of guys that needed the depth last season.

 Andy: I think we did well in 2020. I am not sure there was a weakness that caused us to be beaten in the playoff in El Paso. It was the Lottery that are PK’s 

Jacob: I think you will see what the coaching staff thinks is the biggest weakness by looking at the signings they make the next offseason. After year one the first signing was Kalen then they added depth everywhere. This season they went heavy on attacking players. Goals, while not necessarily rare, were not at the level needed to compete for a cup. We will have to see if the results are there after the season but I like the moves on paper.

  1. We added 8 new faces this year. All of which have experience in the MLS or USLC aside from one. Which 2 guys are going to be the most important to the club in 2021?

Seth: Alex Tambakis and Harry Swartz

Adriana: I am going for Michael Azira and Harry Swartz, also very hard not to mention Isidro Martinez and  Sergio Rivas. I 

Earl: I feel like Ilija Ilic and Sergio Rivas will be the biggest splashes in the Rio Grande. They are both able to fill roles that were taken from the 2020 season. 

Andy: Chelo looks to be a talent as did Schwartz in the last game so I will say what I saw, but if the new front boys fire then we will see some sparks.

Jacob: Chelo and Brian Brown. Chelo is someone that excels on set pieces. That is something we have desperately needed. Brian Brown is going to go a long way in determining if we can win a cup. If he is able to find the back of the net and control the ball like we have seen this preseason then the USLC needs to look out

  1. There are now 4 first team players from New Mexico with the addition of Sergio Rivas. That combined with the academy contracts and the whole academy team mean that we will always have New Mexicans on the club. What does that mean for this state and this team? 
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL! Photo Courtesy of Colorado Springs Switchbacks

Seth: I think it gives the club another way to constantly be involved with the community. It’s a sign that football is here to stay and gives the kids here a chance to dream and actually play for their hometown team.

Adriana: It’s huge! Our state is full of culture and tradition. New Mexico is proud of the team and more so of the people who truly represent us.  

Earl: It makes me excited as a New Mexican to see 4 starting New Mexicans. But it also makes me happier knowing that the Academy kids will also get their chance to shine for New Mexico in the future.

Andy: Using home grown players is less expensive (agents / transfer fees) and also the trust between player/coach grows if they come in from U23 / Academy – so excellent if we can fill the ranks with New Mexican’s.

Jacob: New Mexico is a great place with great people and I’m happy we have 4 high level guys and a team of young academy kids to represent us and show the country that we have talented and genuine people here.