ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico United played to a 1-1 draw with the EFL Championship’s Cardiff City before a sellout crowd of 6,347 fans at the University of New Mexico Soccer Complex in NMU’s first international exhibition in club history.
The night was a notable one for the hosts as well on the field as Gabe Legendre – who last week was introduced as the first player selected for United’s High Performance Program – made his first appearance in the club’s colors.
New Mexico took the lead in just the second minute as it contained possession in the penalty area after a corner kick from the left. The ball fell to Ken Akamatsu, who shifted to create space before sending a shot from 12 yards into the top-left corner of the net to put the USL Championship side on top.
The Bluebirds responded positively and regularly applied pressure down the left side that resulted in a pair of free kicks, the second of which was curled dangerously through the six-yards area only to go behind for a goal kick. Joe Bennett also sent a dangerous ball through the penalty area from the left for Cardiff but no teammate could apply a finishing touch.
The visitors continued to press and New Mexico goalkeeper Ben Beaury made a fine save to keep out an effort by Bobby De Cordova-Reid. Josh Murphy then hit the right post off a delivery by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, but New Mexico held onto its lead until the halftime break.
NMU had a chance to double its lead early in the second half when Devon Sandoval fired a shot just wide of the left post from 20 yards in the 50th minute, and the Albuquerque native had a shot blocked after a good run and low cross by Austin Yearwood four minutes later.
Cardiff’s equalizer arrived in the 64th minute, however, as a free kick 25 yards from goal was curled into the right corner of the net by Omar Bogle. Introduced for the second half, Bogle almost gave the visitors the lead two minutes later when his low cross from the right deflected off the right post before being collected by Beaury.
New Mexico introduced Legendre with 15 minutes to go, with the 17-year-old Cleveland High School and New Mexico Rush midfielder coming on for Josh Goss to mark his debut. Cardiff then almost grabbed a late winner with nine minutes to go when a header by Curtis Nelson was blocked onto the crossbar by Rashid Tetteh and cleared away to safety.
The game ended with honors even, however, on a memorable night in the Land of Enchantment.