Three weekends until the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs begin, and the list of 16 teams that will be part of the field is quickly getting filled. To start today, we look at one of them, which under unique circumstances will get a home crowd for the first time this season. Here’s your Morning Tea for Saturday.
If you were planning on driving on I-25 today between Albuquerque, N.M. and Colorado Springs, Colo., you might end up seeing something slightly extraordinary.
That’s because first travelling north toward Colorado Springs this morning, and then back to Albuquerque tonight, a caravan of up to 1,000 New Mexico United will be making the trip to and from Weidner Field for maybe the most unique game of the 2020 USL Championship season.
United will be the home team on Saturday night when it faces Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field in what will be the club’s only official home game of the 2020 regular season. Due to public health orders implemented by the state of New Mexico, the club has been the visitor for each of its 12 games so far this season.
In terms of venue, that won’t change today, but United’s players can’t wait to see a crowd of fans bringing the flags, banners and passion that was present throughout New Mexico’s inaugural season in the stands at Weidner Field.
“We haven’t been able to play in front of our fans so far,” United defender David Najem said during the club’s conference call on Zoom this week. “Just getting a little taste of that is going to be so nice. It’ll be fun for us. It’s been such a long time coming.”
Despite its travels, United’s place in the 2020 Championship Playoffs was confirmed on Wednesday night as Real Monarchs SLC fell to the Portland Timbers 2 at Zions Bank Stadium. That means the party might start early for The Curse and the rest of the United fans making the trip, who began the week anticipating that this game could be the win that sealed New Mexico’s playoff place.
But there’s still a lot riding on Saturday’s contest. With seeding in Group C still on a knife-edge, United needs all three points to keep up the pressure on El Paso Locomotive FC, which sits a point ahead of New Mexico with four games each left to play.
And that’s where the presence of United’s fans might help most on Saturday. The mental boost the side is expecting to receive at a key moment of the season is something everyone in the camp is looking forward to.
“It always matters, but especially now with the fans there, it might give us a little extra boost,” said United attacking midfielder Amando Moreno. “But I think everyone has it clear that we have to give 100 percent.”
“That’s the beauty of playing in front of, I hope, 1,000 fans,” added Head Coach Troy Lesesne. “It’s been a long season, and we need a little more energy right now.”
With a showdown against Locomotive FC looming next weekend, United’s caravan of fans is ready for what promises to be a special day in an extraordinary season.
- Speaking with The Athletic’s Jeff Rueter, United Soccer League’s Chief Operating Officer Justin Papadakis outlined the expansion process the league has implemented to bring aboard strong clubs and organizations, revealing that the organization is considering more than 40 markets to join the Championship and League One in future years.
- As more prominent leagues have made headlines for their players taking public stands against racial injustice and police brutality, the USL Championship has seen many of its teams, including Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, do the same. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Craig Meyer spoke with Hounds players Ryan James and Skylar Thomas, Head Coach Bob Lilley and USL VP of Communications & Public Relations Ryan Madden about what’s happened so far, and what the next steps might be as the league and its teams engage in action to produce social change.
- Orange County SC needed victory on Friday night to boost its playoff chances, and thanks to Darwin Jones it managed a 1-0 win against Las Vegas Lights FC in its home finale for the regular season. Angels on Parade’s Alicia Rodriguez has the details, which included 15-year-old Francis Jacobs making his professional debut.
- On an eight-game undefeated streak, Louisville City FC could clinch its sixth consecutive playoff berth on Saturday night when it hosts Memphis 901 FC. The Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jonathan Saxon looks ahead to the contest, which could also see LouCity move seven points clear at the top of the Group E standings.
- It’s a simple equation for Saint Louis FC. After last week’s disappointing loss against Louisville City FC, all three points are required against Sporting Kansas City II on Saturday night. “We’re in a difficult spot, no question,” Head Coach Steve Trittschuh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Lyons. “But we know what needs to be done – we need wins – and it has to start on Saturday.”
- Alan Koch has gone back to one of his former homes to bring in a potentially exciting prospect for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, with former Simon Fraser University forward Mamadi Camara now in his first professional season. “I can bring a lot of energy on the field, both out of possession and in possession,” Camara told the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Vinny Benedetto. “I love to go forward and create some attacks. I just think I’m really dangerous in the final third, because I’m a big guy.”
- It was a long time coming, but Eder Borelli made his debut for El Paso Locomotive FC on Wednesday night after coming to the club on loan from FC Juarez earlier this year. Borelli told ESPN El Paso that he had been impressed by the quality of the league, especially given his experience previously in Liga MX.
- Reno 1868 FC has a three-point lead at the top of Group A in the Championship, and has clinched a fourth consecutive playoff berth. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Duke Ritenhouse looked at what’s next for 1868 FC as it pursues both victory in its group, and potentially homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
- Sacramento Republic FC launched voting this week for the Kickstart program that is designed to assist Black-owned small businesses in the Sacramento area facing economic challenges through the pandemic. Sacramento Bee reporter Cameron Salerno has more details, as well as a look at Republic FC’s road ahead now that its seventh consecutive playoff place has been claimed.
Tag(s): San Antonio FC CO Spring Switchbacks OKC Energy FC Orange County SC Phoenix Rising FC Portland Timbers 2 Real Monarchs SLC Reno 1868 FC Sacramento Republic FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Louisville City FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saint Louis FC North Carolina FC Memphis 901 FC El Paso Locomotive FC New Mexico United Loudoun United FC Hartford Athletic Tacoma Defiance San Diego Loyal SC Sporting KC II The Miami FC The Morning Tea