New Mexico United and forward Devon Sandoval will take aim at their first win in club history when they host Tulsa Roughnecks FC in the USL Championship Game of the Week on Wednesday night on ESPN3. | Photo courtesy Josh Lane / New Mexico United
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Before the 2019 USL Championship season began two weeks ago, there might not have been a great deal of intrigue going into the first Championship Game of the Week on ESPN3 between New Mexico United and Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
But now? The meeting at Isotopes Park (9 p.m. ET | Match Center) is shaping up as a potential barnburner between two sides coming off high-scoring road results this past weekend. Here are three storylines we’re keeping an eye on going into the first national broadcast game of the season.
FIRING FROM RANGE: Just two games into its history, New Mexico United has already shown a flair for the spectacular with three goals from outside the penalty area. That’s the most of any side in the Championship two weeks into the season, with Devon Sandoval, Kevaughn Frater and Santi Moar all putting away long-range strikes. United has shown a willingness to pull the trigger from long range with 14 shots overall from outside the area, so the Roughnecks may need to tighten up defensively to avoid giving its hosts clear looks on goal from 20+ yards.
MEET THE NEW GUYS: After winning only three times in the 2018 season, Tulsa Roughnecks FC started almost from scratch in assembling a roster for the 2019 season. Forward D.J. Dean was the lone holdover from last year’s squad, which means there are a whole lot of new faces looking to achieve a turnaround from last place in the Western Conference. That new squad has taken four points from its first two games after Saturday’s 5-3 comeback victory against Orange County SC, which saw Brazilian defender Luca Lobo score twice on his debut. The Roughnecks pulled off a similar turnaround two years ago when reaching the USL Cup Playoffs after finishing last in the Western Conference in 2016. Wednesday night might give us a clue as to whether something similar is on the cards this year for Head Coach Michael Nsien’s side.
BRING ‘EM OUT: It might not live up to the crowd of almost 13,000 fans that was on hand for New Mexico United’s inaugural home opener on March 9, but the club’s first major moment in the spotlight as the host for Wednesday night’s only professional soccer action in North America should bring another strong crowd to Isotopes Park. With a chance to see United claim its first victory in club history, we should be in for a crackling atmosphere from The Curse and its fellow supporters to show viewers across North America what NMU means to fans.