It’s a packed day of action in the Championship with 13 games in all across the schedule, including a notable clash between Memphis 901 FC and the Charlotte Independence on ESPN Deportes at 5 p.m. ET. To kick off today, though, let’s take a look at one of the players who’ll be central in one of the biggest games of the night. Here’s your Morning Tea for Saturday.
When he was first starting to build New Mexico United’s roster, Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne knew one player in particular he was keen to bring on board.
“[Chris Wehan was] a player that I really wanted to work with, not only because he played at [the University of New Mexico] and he had that tie to New Mexico, but I wanted him all the way back in 2014 when I was scouting for the Vancouver Whitecaps,” said Lesense this week. “He was this young, skinny player for UNM, but this guy’s level of intelligence for an attacking player is off the charts. He sees things that other players don’t see. He positions the ball for himself in ways that other players don’t do.”
Wehan’s ability was already well-known in Championship circles. The winner of the 2017 Rookie of the Year award after tying the then-league record with 12 assists in a season at Reno 1868 FC, Wehan earned a move up to the San Jose Earthquakes the following year.
While that move didn’t work out for attacking midfielder, Lesesne saw someone he could build a midfield around to support the already-signed Devon Sandoval on his new squad in New Mexico.
“I felt like if I could work with a guy like that based on how we want to play and how we attack, then I can put him in a position more central – because he’s played wide quite a bit in his professional career besides from us,” said Lesesne. “I wanted to play him either as an 8 or a 10, and I felt if we could get him in one of those two positions then he could score goals and he could create goals for our team, and he’s done just that.”
After reeling off 10 goals and six assists in the league for United last season, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak that has coincided with United’s rise to the top of Group C ahead of Saturday night’s game with Phoenix Rising FC. His play has also drawn admirers beyond United – Rising FC Head Coach Rick Schantz called Wehan “a bone fide star in this league” during his midweek conference call.
As New Mexico has progressed this season, Wehan has taken on a central role. That could put him in line for an even bigger award than the one he earned three years ago at the end of this season, and solidify his place as one of the Championship’s stars.
And from there, who knows what might happen.
“I’m just happy to see him hit the form he’s hitting right now because he’s a top player in this league,” said Lesesne. “I think we have a number of players who can make that jump to the next level, and he’s one of them.”
Raise your hand if you're ready for tomorrow's match.— Memphis 901 FC (@Memphis901FC) August 7, 2020
- The Tampa Bay Rowdies were made to work defensively but pulled away late for a 3-0 victory against Miami FC on Friday night to stretch their undefeated start to the season to six games. The Rowdies’ Sebastian Guenzatti struck again, his fourth consecutive game with a goal, while Evan Louro made a key second-half save in the victory to keep the visitors ahead before late goals from Malik Johnson and Juan Tejada.
- Louisville City FC has struggled for form recently but going into the first LIPAFC clash of the season against Indy Eleven at Lynn Family Stadium on Saturday night the hosts see an opportunity to turn things back in the right direction. Dominique Yates has more for the Louisville Courier-Journal.
- Memphis 901 FC Head Coach Tim Mulqueen told the Daily Memphian’s John Varlas winning the midfield battle and giving North Carolina FC as little time and space to work is going to be key as his side looks to claim a second consecutive victory on Saturday evening at AutoZone Park.
- North Carolina FC could have a new – but familiar – weapon in attack available for its trip to Memphis. The side acquired forward Marios Lomis from El Paso Locomotive FC on Friday, returning the Dutch forward to his former club where he scored 11 goals over the past two seasons.
- El Paso Locomotive FC is still above the playoff line in Group C, but after back-to-back defeats Head Coach Mark Lowry’s side knows it needs to get back on track when it plays host to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday. KROD’s Joe Rodriguez took a look ahead to the matchup.
- Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC has put in some good performances so far this season but has yet to reach its highest level according to Head Coach Bob Lilley. Ahead of Saturday’s clash with the New York Red Bulls II, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Greg Macafee took a look at what that might entail.
- Going from a USL Academy signing a year ago to joining the professional ranks with Sacramento Republic FC this season, Mario Penagos is looking to add to his role with the side five years after joining the club’s academy system. The Elk Grove Citizen’s Kerensa Uyeta-Buckley spoke with the youngster about his progress.
- Las Vegas Lights FC is still looking for its first win of the 2020 season, but it will get another chance against a familiar foe on Saturday night when San Diego Loyal SC visits Cashman Field. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Le’Andre Fox looks ahead to the third meeting between the clubs this season.
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