We’ve got a six-game slate of action tonight in the USL Championship, including some high-profile contests in the race for the postseason. We start today, though, with what might end up as a unique moment that comes to represent this season on and off the field. Here’s your Morning Tea for Wednesday.
New Mexico United is going “Home”.
On Tuesday morning, the club announced it would host its first “home game” of 2020. The venue? Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC’s Weidner Field, with the Switchbacks also the opponent on Saturday, September 19.
The caveat? 1,000 United fans will make up the socially-distanced crowd at the game, giving the side at least some of the backing that saw New Mexico arrive on the American soccer landscape with a bang a year ago.
It’s going to be different, but this year, what isn’t?
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the United family together again in a safe and responsible way,” said New Mexico United President/CEO Peter Trevisani. “For a few hours next weekend, Weidner Field will become an extension of the Land of Enchantment, and we look forward to providing fans, players, and coaches with the home field experience they’ve been missing all season.
“To do that, we need your help in following COVID-safe guidelines, and working together as New Mexicans to keep each other safe and healthy.”
Once again, this is brilliant out-of-the-box thinking from an organization that has built itself and its brand around being something unique. Who else would think about figuring out a way to “host” a game 380 miles away in another state? Probably the same people who would figure out a way to get 180 fans from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Saint Paul, Minnesota via a charter airplane on three weeks notice for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game last summer.
But beyond that, it’s a sign of the bond that exists between clubs in the Championship, which have only been strengthened over the past six months as the league navigates its way through the season.
The Switchbacks could easily have turned New Mexico’s offer down, taking the advantage of homefield and its own support at the game in what is still a live playoff race. Instead, Colorado Springs’ leadership were magnanimous and came together on United’s plan to bring its passionate support to the Switchbacks’ stadium for what might be the most unique game we’ve seen in the Championship’s history.
According to the club, there will be a mask, hand sanitizer, and a home opener flag to everyone who makes the five-and-a half hour drive north. The club is also asking all fans to sign a pledge saying they’ll behave responsibly and offering to schedule a COVID-19 test following the trip by contacting the New Mexico United office.
For fans who’ve been waiting patiently to see United in action this season, there’s already excitement building as New Mexico makes a home away from home.
“If we do it safely, if we follow the proper guidelines, I’m sure we can pull this through,” United fan Jesus Morales to KRQE’s Brittany Bade. “As long as everyone’s being safe, wearing their mask, taking their sanitizers we should all be able to have a good time there.”
- After the conclusion of their three regular-season meetings, there's still nothing to separate Austin Bold FC and FC Tulsa in the Group D standings. Tuesday night brought a 2-2 draw between the sides at Bold Stadium as Dario Suarez struck twice to continue his hot streak for Tulsa before Austin rallied back to level the game early in the second half, keeping the teams level on points and with identical records with five games to go in the regular season.
- Sacramento Republic FC has a chance to close out a playoff position this week if things fall their way, starting on Wednesday night against Orange County SC. But the Sacramento Bee’s Richard Ivanovski writes while the side is on a five-game winning streak, its inconsistency in front of goal has been a concern.
- To try and address that, Republic FC went out on Tuesday and acquired a new potential attacking threat with Frank Lopez joining the side on loan from OKC Energy FC for the rest of 2020. The Cuban has scored 27 goals in 62 games in the Championship so far in his career.
- San Antonio FC also bolstered its attacking options on Tuesday, adding Toronto FC forward Jordan Perruzza on loan. The young Canadian striker was a USL League One All-League selection and nominated for the league’s Young Player of the Year award after scoring 15 goals in 2019.
- As new loans add to sides before the roster freeze, a notable offseason loan came to an end on Tuesday as Arturo Rodriguez returned to League One’s North Texas SC from Real Monarchs SLC. The 2019 League One Most Valuable Player, Rodriguez didn’t quite find his footing with the Monarchs and had made only two appearances so far this season.
- Jamaican international Andre Lewis has been one of the important newcomers for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC this season. Speaking with Beautiful Game Network’s Carson Merk he explains how Switchbacks Head Coach Alan Koch got him to make the move back to the United States, and his love of his home country and playing for the Reggae Boyz.