United go for three in a row in Herriman

Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you make a mistake. I think it’s time I own up to one. I made a mistake in my preview of Wednesday’s match. I was off the mark with my projected team sheet. 

I fully expected Troy to put out our best XI and take it to the defending champs in what amounts to the first match of a doubleheader. I’m sure many expected to see Devon Sandoval and Chris Wehan carry the load once again. But Troy had other ideas in mind. While the club didn’t exactly take it to Real Monarchs SLC in that match, the team that was on the pitch performed above the expectations of many. 

Projected XI against Real Monarchs

Sure, United surrendered 62.2% possession, but possession isn’t everything. It matters how you use the possession you get.

Sure, Romeo Parkes didn’t have a stellar night, but this is a team sport. It matters how the entire team performs.

Sure, United isn’t particularly known for their ability to defend crosses, but SLC couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.  

That’s the great thing about football. All it takes is one or two moments in a match to swing a result, no matter what the stat line looks like. United had plenty of opportunities throughout the night putting six shots on frame compared the Real’s four. It’s all about taking advantage of the opportunities that you are presented. 

New Mexico United did just that when given the opportunity to sign former Monarchs defender Kalen Ryden. Throughout his career, Ryden has been described as dominant. Going all the way back to his high school days there was a time in which he was impressive as a forward as well. He seems to have a second sense about what opposing players are going to do and that allows him to make reads about the run of play that others don’t. 

As with most, if not all, of the players that United has signed, it’s been about the opportunity. The club has struck gold with their homegrown talent and developed a real connection with the community through the UNM links. As a former Lobo, Wehan is seizing the opportunity he’s been given to play in front of a familiar fan base. Currently tied for third in scoring in the USL, he has already found the back of the net five times within eight matches. What makes it even more impressive is that it has all come in the six appearances he’s been given since the restart. 

Coming off the heels of a 2019 campaign in which he scored ten times across thirty appearances, Wehan is on track for a career season. He’s continued to show that he is a scorer and a creator out of both the midfield and forward positions. If this keeps up, there’s a very real chance that the man known as Beez could find himself with another chance in the MLS soon. 

Player to Watch 

Cody Mizell – We all thought that Cody had a great year in 2019. From the level of play he’s shown so far in 2020, he’s on pace to concede fewer goals and exceed his clean sheet total from a season ago. El Gato Naranjo has been putting on a clinic between the posts and showing true leadership on and off the pitch.

All doesn’t seem to be well for the Monarchs, however. The defending champions are struggling to score and a two-match series against United hasn’t helped cure that so far. After the match on Wednesday, Real has now been kept scoreless in four matches this season and is averaging less than one goal per match. That’s not a good sign if they want a chance to defend their title at the end of the season. 

That’s part of the struggle that any young team faces, no matter what sport they’re playing. In football, it’s a bit different from the NFL though. In the NFL you can bring in veteran guys who have had four years to develop in pro-style systems thanks to the NCAA. While football players can benefit from the NCAA as well, many clubs instead choose to develop players through their academy systems. Real is one of those clubs. As an MLS II squad, their main job is to develop players in order to send them on to the parent club. Some times it works out for the lower club, as it did for them in 2019. 

Other times it doesn’t, which has the case so far this year. 

That’s not to say that they can’t turn their season around, but it’s going to take an enormous effort from both the players on the pitch and coach, Jamison Olave. The former Real player took over in 2018 as an interim coach and earned himself the job on a full-time basis. Olave has a chance to develop young players into future MLS and potentially international stars, but they have a lot of work ahead of them. 

Real will likely look to employ the same attacking strategy they did on Wednesday night, bombard the box with crosses. While it didn’t work out too well for them, as the players spend more time together on the pitch, their chemistry will improve and so will their results. Although they failed to connect the last time out, they were very efficient in maintaining possession and handled United’s press better than some more experienced clubs have so far this season. 

In order for their crossing game to work, Real has to be better about making runs and finding space in the box for those crosses to land. They will also have to find a way to get the ball around United’s defenders, especially Ryden. Veteran Jack Blake could be instrumental in making this happen.

Player to Watch

Jack Blake – The veteran midfielder only played half of the match on Wednesday night and could get an extended appearance on Saturday. His ability on the ball to gain space and give himself a chance to shoot is probably the best on Real’s roster. If he’s allowed to control the ball, he could be a danger in the final third. 

Our Predictions

As we discussed on the podcast this week, Jacob and I both believe United will get the victory. We did have different scorelines though. Jacob predicted that United would win by a margin of 3-0 and I predicted a final of 2-1. I will toot my own horn for just a minute and say that I did nail the Wednesday night prediction. We’ll know later tonight who was closer with their predictions for the week.

Saturday night’s match is scheduled for an 8 p.m. (Mountain) kickoff from Zion’s Bank Stadium. The match can be viewed domestically on ESPN+ while international viewers can watch live on YouTube. Locally the match will broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and website. Spanish language commentary can be heard on La Zeta 106.3 FM.