The furthest Loudoun United have found themselves taking a trip was about 1,100 miles to play Swope Park Rangers (aka, Sporting Kansas City II), back in 2019. Tonight with the USL’s schedule, they find themselves going almost twice as far to Isotopes Field (where the biggest bandwagon fan does NOT go), facing a New Mexico United team looking for their third straight win and fourth straight unbeaten game. With a mix of veterans and promising youngsters New Mexico finds themselves in a battle in the Mountain Division next to San Antonio FC and Rio Grande Valley FC, the latter of whom will play Loudoun later this year.
Like the first game, Loudoun’s second found themselves with a bunch of chances, and they were able to convert one, but one wasn’t enough, dropping a 2-1 result for the 2nd straight game. Loudoun’s inability to take advantage of chances has been a takeaway so far, combined with slight underachieving of the goals allowed putting them in the unenviable position of being the fifth-worst team in expected goals and expected goals differential. If there was a time to right the ship, doing so on the road against a crowd of approximately 10,000 should make for a challenge, to say the least.
Key player: Nicky Downs/Jeremy Garay
We’ve established that New Mexico will have a big crowd and a core of veterans who can play well with one another. This could serve as a litmus of sorts for the midfield, who will see an even more dialed-in Pittsburgh Riverhounds come to Loudoun County next week. Downs and Garay neutralizing the middle and forcing things outside (and providing counter distribution when available) keeps Loudoun in the conversation.
Location: Isotopes Park (Albuquerque, NM)
Kickoff time: 9:30 pm Eastern
Projected Loudoun starting 11/who D.C. is loaning: D.C. United announced on Friday that Jacob Greene was loaned to Loudoun and will be available for selection tonight. Obviously, Greene will slot in on the right side, but the questions are not only when he would come on (Michael DeShields was a second half substitute in last week’s loss to the New York Red Bulls II), but the potentially intriguing one becomes what role he’ll have on that side, be it as a right-back or a right-wingback. Ted Ku-DiPietro assumed the latter role last week and afterward expressed how much he enjoyed playing in that part of the field.
So, now that the team played a three-man backline in Game 2 after their 4231 in Game 1, knowing they have that club in their bag do they play it again now, or hold it for next week when games start to ramp up? For the sake of getting one to three points, the latter may be preferable.
Starters: Jermaine Fordah; Wahab Ackwei, Timmy Mehl, Robby Dambrot; Ku-DiPietro, Downs, Garay, Gaoussou Samake; Kairou Amoustapha, Samson Sergi, Jovanny Bolivar
Bench: Keegan Meyer, Greene, Logan Panchot, Tyler Gabarra, Landry Houssou, Massimo Ferrin, Darluis Paz
Key New Mexico player: Amando Moreno
It’s hard to pin down a true danger for New Mexico from way out here in the East; Moreno is tied with the team lead in goals (2) and leads in created chances (4). Moreno plays on the right side so the left side of defense will get a challenge, but you can also make the case that Brian Brown and/or Rivas are almost as deadly. With experience in the first level, Gaoussou Samake will be busy with him and former Hartford Athletic player Harry Schwartz.
Referee: As of Friday night, not announced.
Available streaming: ESPN+ (click to subscribe to ESPN+, and your friends at B&RU get a little bit of cash!)
What are you drinking?: I guess it depends on how D.C.’s game goes? Conservatively, going with water and/or some Equilibrium hops I grabbed from an Outer Banks bottle shop.
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