Showdown in El Paso, United in search of crucial points

I have to be honest with you, reader. It’s not always easy to sit down and write up a match preview. Recaps are even harder some times. Not that I don’t love doing them or that I’m going to stop doing them. There’s just something different about this season that makes it hard sometimes. 

It’s hard previewing the same matchup four times in a single season. For the most part, rosters don’t change, club tactics don’t change, and the expectations don’t change. It’s especially hard trying to preview two matches between the same two clubs twice in one week. I guess the hardest part is coming up with new things to say. We know who the impact players will be every week (here’s looking at you Aidan Daniels) but we also don’t want to say the same name week in and week out. That would get to be quite repetitive right? 

All of that is a long-winded way to say that New Mexico United need to win tonight in El Paso.

Everyone knows that United need a win in order to keep their hopes alive for retaking first place in Group C and avoiding San Antonio in the first round. It’s no secret that they are easily the best club in Group D and a match against either Austin Bold or FC Tulsa would be the preferred option. In order to get there though, United has to win out.

There are a number of similarities between United and El Paso. Both of course came into the league last season and are seen by many as rivals. Maybe rivals in a big brother/little brother sense, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a real rivalry. Maybe there’s more of a sense of that since El Paso finally beat United in a match, but that’s yet to be seen if that continues a trend in the favor of the Locomotive. Both managers like to employ a high line and try to press their opponents. Both clubs have strong defensive players and both don’t like the other on the pitch. 

United has a better defensive midfield, while El Paso is better in the attack. This is where tonight’s match will be decided. Can United’s midfield make enough stops? Can the back three forget the mistakes that were made in the last meeting? 

Projected XI vs El Paso

For El Paso, the biggest question they face is can they break down United’s defending and find space in which to attack? 

We’ll get the answers to those questions later tonight. 

Players to Watch

United’s midfield – last week we saw a couple of instances where plays weren’t made and it resulted in the Switchbacks coming from behind to win. Against a club like El Paso, you can’t make mistakes as we saw the last time out. 

Logan Ketterer – Ketterer has been decent all year, but we’ve seen him have issues when he’s put under pressure, particularly from United’s press. If United can put pressure on him early, force him into early responses they can get to him and force a mistake.

Tonight’s match could have an impact on the playoff seeds from Group C, no matter the outcome. 

United Loss – United will get the number 2 seed. A loss will drop United’s total possible points to 29 and leave El Paso with a minimum possible of 30.

United Draw – A draw tonight would give the muddiest of all the remaining outcomes. The two clubs would remain four points apart with only two matches remaining. If in those final two matches El Paso was able to pick up even one win, they would secure the first seed. There are other scenarios in play if tonight ends in a draw, but those would require losses or draws for El Paso and wins for United. If tonight ends in a draw, we will explore those later. 

United Win – Obviously this is the best-case scenario for tonight. It still opens up more scenarios that are out of the club’s hands but puts them in the best possible position with matches remaining against RGV and Real Monarchs. At this point, no one knows when or if the match with RGV will even happen, so there’s a possibility that the group may be moved to a points per match format, which will only benefit United more if they win out. 

Tonight’s match is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. (Mountain) kickoff from Southwest University Park. The match can be streamed lived on ESPN+ domestically and on YouTube for international viewers. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team, via The TEAM app, and website. Spanish language commentary is also available on La Zeta 106.3 FM.