United’s 2020 Journey Begins in Austin

For football supporters, this is probably the most exciting weekend of the year. 

Photo Courtesy: Blue Mountain Images

Okay, maybe it’s just that way for supporters of the USL. Three months ago, the season ended with New Mexico United being eliminated during the play-in round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Since then, it’s been what feels like an eternity waiting for the season to start. 

To be completely honest, that first month or two after the season ended was excruciating as someone who is not only a supporter but also covers the club. I kept refreshing and visiting the club’s website and social media pages hoping for even the tiniest scrap of news. Then came the dreaded ‘will not return’ announcement. 

From that point on, it was always a matter of when, not if, we would get another announcement from the club. As the offseason progressed and the roster began to take shape, it was time to stop looking back and instead start looking forward. I think the band Semisonic said it best:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

The exit from the playoffs and the announcement of the first roster changes signaled the end of the beginning. 2020 gives the club and the community around it a new beginning, and with that comes a renewed sense of excitement. From the front office to the pitch things are happening with United.

Although the club lost six players, including Santi Moar and Kevaughn Frater, they brought in eight new faces to prepare for the sophomore season. Those eight signings represent a mix of both veterans and rookies to the ranks of the USL. In our season preview series, we talked about a number of the new signings especially Kalen Ryden and Sammy Sergi. 

Ryden’s arrival helps to shore up a backline that struggled throughout the campaign in 2019. Coming off of a championship-winning season with Real Monarchs, Ryden brings a wealth of football knowledge and leadership that will have an immediate impact for United. Of the new signings, Ryden and Sergi could be the ones to potentially break into the XI early in the season. 

Speaking of the XI, here’s how I think Troy may send out the club this weekend in the opener against Austin Bold FC.

Maybe this is a little bold, but this XI presents a challenge for Bold to have to deal with. There’s increased creativity in the final third with the inclusion of Amando Moreno and Chris Wehan through the middle. Having Andrew Tinari and Daniel Bruce on opposite wings gives two sure-footed, creative players that can get the ball into the box from anywhere on the wings. 

Defensively, Ryden brings more height to the backline and the pairing with Sam Hamilton could be one of the tougher duos for the Western Conference to have to deal with. It would also free up Josh Suggs to work up the left side of the pitch, something he became very comfortable with last season. 

While United had a significant amount of turnover to their roster, Bold FC had very little. For another expansion club heading into their second season, that amount of continuity could be a huge benefit to them.

Coming off of an 8th place finish in the Western Conference last season, Bold FC has some lofty expectations ahead of them. Though they didn’t necessarily make a big splash with their roster moves, their defense improved drastically with the singing of Ismaila Jome. The former Switchback has plenty of experience and played well against United in three matchups last season. 

In two meetings last season, Bold FC was unable to beat United, despite their best efforts. 

The extremely talented Kris Tyrpak, Kleber, and Andre Lima have all returned for Bold. In each of the matchups, all three of them proved to be difficult for United to handle in the final third. That being said, none of them were able to get onto the scoresheet last season. If United can limit their chances on goal on Saturday then I don’t expect Bold to finally get a win over United. 

Saturday’s match is scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. (Mountain) kickoff from Bold Stadium. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM as well as The TEAM App.