EL PASO, Texas – New Mexico United withstood a late comeback by El Paso Locomotive FC to earn a 2-1 victory at Southwest university Park on Friday night that vaulted the visitors to the top of Group C in the USL Championship. Chris Wehan and Devon Sandoval scored for United, which had to hold on late after a penalty kick from Josue Aaron Gomez.
On a rainy night, both teams had chances in the opening 10 minutes, including a big opportunity for New Mexico’s Armando Moreno as he turned well receiving possession near the top of the penalty area but sent his finish wide of the right post as Locomotive FC goalkeeper Logan Ketterer advanced quickly off his line.
The visitors then had a goal ruled out for offside in the 19th minute when Sandoval saw the flag raised after he had drifted just behind the defensive line early before extending for a diving header. Sandoval would play a role in United’s opener in the 35th minute, however, as he rose to head down a free kick from the right by Josh Suggs to Wehan, and Wehan made no mistake with his finish from the right side of the penalty area.
Sandoval then got on the scoresheet himself to cement New Mexico’s lead deep in first-half stoppage time. After United turned possession over near the halfway line, the ball moved quickly upfield through Moreno to the Albuquerque native, and he fired a low shot from 25 yards that found the bottom-left corner of the net for a two-goal halftime advantage.
After recording only two shots before the break, El Paso almost halved its deficit less than five minutes into the second half. A poor defensive header by United offered a chance for halftime substitute Dylan Mares, but his header slid just wide of the left post. The chance appeared to energize the hosts as Mares sparked the side, but New Mexico found another opportunity after a turnover fell to Wehan, who broke forward on the right side and picked out Romeo Parkes arriving at the back post for a volleyed finish that went high of the net.
Locomotive FC continued to carry more of the play, however, and Nick Ross forced a good save in the 63rd minute on a shot from 20 yards that took a deflection that New Mexico goalkeeper Cody Mizell reacted well to turn away for a corner. Mizell was sharp again with 13 minutes to go, producing a fingertip save to deny Yuma’s near-post flick on a free kick from the left by Mares.
The pressure from the hosts paid off with four minutes to go as Gomez was brought down in the penalty area by New Mexico defender Kalen Ryden, and Gomez converted from the spot with a low shot to the left corner. That set off a wild ending that saw United awarded a penalty kick of its own when Daniel Bruce was brought down in the penalty area, but Ketterer went the right way and denied Wehan’s shot the bottom-left corner, keeping hope for the hosts of an equalizer alive.
El Paso got one big final chance in the fourth minute of stoppage time to find that equalizer when a floated cross from the right came all the way through to Andrew Fox in the left side of the penalty area. The defender had time to control and unleashed a powerful shot across goal, but it fizzed just wide of the right post through the traffic in front of the net, and New Mexico was able to hold on for all three points in another classic between the two regional rivals.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Devon Sandoval, New Mexico United – Sandoval notched a goal and assist, had three shots and three chances created overall and battled confidently with El Paso’s back line as the main target for the visitors.