United set to defend their Northern Territory against Switchbacks FC

It’s safe to assume that most sports fans believe in home-field advantage. No matter what sport, there’s something about being in your home stadium and in front of friendly supporters that generates extra energy for everyone present. Whether its the home crowd cheering on a closer who is going for that final out, the Cameron Crazies trying to distract an opposing free throw shooter or the parents and friends of the local high school team; there’s nothing like playing in front of a home crowd.

Even sites like 538, who do predictions for most of the major football leagues factors in home-field advantage. Given the changes at most venues for this season, they’ve decreased the weight it lends to their formulas by 60%.

This season, New Mexico United hasn’t gotten to experience that. Due to all of the travel restrictions that are in place, United have been on the road for every match so far. But if there was a place that they prefer to go, if not The Lab, it would have to be Weidner Field. In three trips north since the beginning of the 2019 season, United has been undefeated by our neighbors to the north, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

You would think that the Switchbacks would have a number of advantages at home, and over most clubs, they have a very significant one. That’s the fact that they train at altitude. It gets talked about in other sports about how teams traveling to a higher altitude are some times prone to altitude sickness or are not acclimated to the thinner air. That doesn’t hold true for United, however.

If you look at the stats, Albuquerque and Denver are only about 500 feet apart in terms of altitude. Compared to other clubs, United are uniquely prepared for this type of atmosphere.

Throw in the fact that even in a good year Colorado Springs doesn’t draw well, and United has the recipe to continue to collectively own the state of Colorado.

Chile memes aside, United has hands down outplayed the Switchbacks every time they’ve played. Sure, the scoreline was closer in the last meeting, but using the eye test, it wasn’t even close in terms of the level of play. United dominated from the opening kick and didn’t look back.

If you listened to the latest episode of The SUNcast, you’ll know that both Jacob and I picked United to win again this week. Heading back into group play, the momentum needs to be kicked up again after losing for the first time since the restart. With each of the next four matches taking place against the bottom two clubs within the group, United has a chance to take a sizeable lead before facing off against El Paso once again.

First things first though. Take care of business against the Switchbacks. We’ve already talked a number of times on the podcast and on here about how improved the opponents have been since last September and the appointment of Alan Koch as head coach. While that hasn’t translated to points this season, they’ve played visibly better. Unfortunately for them, United is as close to full strength as they’ve been in the past month.

With only Justin Schmidt expected to miss the match today, due to surgery on his foot, United should have plenty of legs available to outrun their opponents. Having everyone available greatly increases the possibilities of what Troy Lesesne can do with his team sheet, and on the pitch it allows Unites more opportunity to play their patented high press and then sub out tired legs later in the match.

The return of Sandoval gives Wehan more freedom within the midfield to roam around and make plays. With Wehan commanding the number 10 spot on the field, he often draws the attention of opposing centrebacks and opens up lanes for others to get to ball into dangerous areas.

Ultimately, there’s nothing that Colorado Springs will be able to do to stop United again this week. United has shown time and again that they are a very good club on the road and with the number of weapons now making their presence felt, this should be another win for the good guys.

Saturday’s match is scheduled for a 3 p.m. kickoff from Weidner Field. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ for domestic viewers and YouTube for international viewers. Locally the game will be broadcast live on KOAT-7 which can be viewed over-the-air. Not only that but there will be two radio calls; one from ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, website, and in Spanish on 106.3 La Zeta.