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GAMEDAY ROUNDUP: New Mexico Closes Gap on Locomotive FC

By Staff, 09/30/20, 7:02PM EDT


United defeats Monarchs, El Paso held by Switchbacks; North Carolina, Hartford take victories

New Mexico United took victory against Real Monarchs SLC, while El Paso Locomotive FC could only draw against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC as the gap between the top two in Group C was reduced to two points. Also on Wednesday night, North Carolina FC maintained its late drive to reach the postseason with victory against the New York Red Bulls II, and Hartford Athletic got a late winner from Danny Barrera in bizarre fashion to defeat the Philadelphia Union II and move into first place in Group F.


HERRIMAN, Utah – New Mexico United moved within two points of El Paso Locmotive FC for first place in Group C as it earned victory against the Monarchs at Zions Bank Stadium for the fourth time this season.

The game opened quietly, but United almost grabbed the lead on the half-hour mark as former Monarchs defender Kalen Ryden got in for a header in the right side of the penalty area off a free kick by Joris Ahlinvi that he sent just wide of the right post. The hosts went close seven minutes as Dayonn Harris got into the right side of the penalty area for a low shot that flashed wide of the left post, but the game reached the halftime break scoreless.

New Mexico had a big chance to grab the lead early in the second half when a good cross from the right by David Estrada was met at the back post by a volleyed finish from Josh Suggs, but Monarchs goalkeeper Jimmy Slayton got down well to his left to make a one-handed save before his defense cleared up the rebound.

Suggs helped provide the setup as United took the lead in the 57th minute, however, as he outpaced both his defender and an advancing Slayton to a ball over the top by Ryden and flicked the ball forward, allowing Ahlinvi to run on and finish the opportunity into the open net.

The Monarchs had a late chance to level as Ryan Sierakowski got onto the end of a cross from Daniel Flores from the left that he headed just wide of the right post from close range. That would prove to be the final chance for the hosts, however, as New Mexico held on to keep its hopes of a first-place finish alive. Man of the Match

Saalih Muhammed, New Mexico United – Muhammed provided a solid anchor in the center of the part for the visitors as he won 7 of 11 duels and made 10 recoveries while also completing 67 of 75 passes.


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Switchbacks and Locomotive FC played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday night as El Paso continued to inch toward clinching first place in Group C at Weidner Field.

Playing their final game at Weidner Field before moving the their new downtown stadium in 2021, the Switchbacks had a big chance to open the scoring early as in the seventh minute Aidan Daniels dribbled into the left side of the penalty area and delivered a low cross to the back post, but Jordan Burt was unable to put home a finish. Daniel also went close himself in the 25th minute with a curling finish from 25 yards that went just over the top-right corner of the net.

Locomotive FC’s Josue Aaron Gomez had a low shot comfortably saved just before the half-hour mark by Switchbacks goalkeeper Sean Melvin, but again four minutes before halftime it looked the hosts were more likely to take the lead as Luke Ferreira fired a low shot just wide of the left post after a short corner had been worked around to the top of the penalty area.

Ferreira had another big chance to open the second half as a loose pass by El Paso’s Mechack Jerome sent him in on goal, but Locomotive FC defender Drew Beckie got back across quickly to block Ferreira’s shot to deny a 1-on-1 chance. El Paso’s Macauley King then flashed a shot just over the crossbar from the top-right corner of the penalty area in the 56th minute, but neither side was able to gain the upper hand for much of the second half despite some half-chances for either side.

El Paso almost grabbed a go-ahead goal with nine minutes to go as King sent a deep cross from the right flank that found Gomez in the left side of the penalty for a header back across goal that was met by a diving header from Leandro Carrijó that appeared to have Melvin beaten, only for Jesús Rubio to make a crucial goal line clearance. That would prove to be the final big moment of the game, however, as the sides ended scoreless. Man of the Match

Rony Argueta, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – Argueta was strong in the center of midfield for the hosts, completing 26 of 30 passes and winning 9 of 11 duels to help contain the visitors for much of the contest.


RICHMOND, Va. – North Carolina kept its postseason chances alive as a three-goal first half paved the way to victory against the Red Bulls II at City Stadium.  

NCFC took control of the neutral-site contest early on as Dre Fortune was brought down in the penalty area by the Red Bulls II’s Jake LaCava. Fortune stepped up to the spot and converted for his sixth goal of the regular season in the 12th minute. Fortune went close to a second five minutes later as he found the side-netting after a shot by Connor Donovan in the penalty area was blocked.

Ben Speas struck in the 26th minute, however, as he tucked home a first-time finish from the center of the penalty area after Pecka had driven in from the right and cut back a low cross for Speas to knock home.

Marios Lomis almost added a third 11 minutes before halftime with a diving header that was brilliantly saved by Red Bulls II goalkeeper Luca Lewis, who tipped the effort just over the crossbar. Manny Perez found the net for the second time in as many games in first-half stoppage time, though, as he tidied up a low cross from the left by Akeem Ward at the back post to make it a three-goal game at the break.

New York threatened in the second half, and NCFC goalkeeper Alex Tambakis had to make a big save just before the hour-mark to keep out Sebastian Elney before defender Alex Comsia blocked LaCava’s rebound effort. Lewis also made another big save for New York in the 67th minute to keep out another headed effort by Donovan. New York’s Cherif Dieye also went close with a long-range drive eight minutes later, but North Carolina saw out the win to earn its second run of back-to-back wins of the season Man of the Match

Ben Speas, North Carolina FC – Speas scored once, had five key passes and completed 19 of 26 passes overall to lead NCFC to a comfortable victory.


CHESTER, Pa. – Danny Barrera scored a bizarre goal late on to lift the Athletic to victory against the Union II and keep Hartford’s chances of earning first place in Group F alive on at Subaru Park. Hartford moved into first place with the win, and would seal top spot with a victory against the New York Red Bulls II on Sunday evening.

The Athletic gained an early advantage as Alex Dixon latched onto a pass by Idan Cohen and was brought down in the penalty area by Union II goalkeeper Mitchell Budler. Mads Jorgensen stepped up to the spot and shot low to the right corner just out of the reach of Budler’s dive. Hartford added a second in the 15th minute as a corner kick from the left by Jorgensen sailed to the back post and was tapped home on the doorstep by Alex Lara for his first goal for the club.

Philadelphia pulled a goal back from a corner kick of its own in the 22nd minute, however, as a low delivery from the left by Paxten Aaronson was redirected into his own net on a mis-hit clearance attempt by Cohen at the near post. Hartford went close to restoring its two-goal lead eight minutes before the break, but Dixon was unable to find the target after a good centering feed from Gabriel Torres from the left, and then early in half Cohen slid a shot just wide of the left post from the right side of the area.

The Union II got a big chance of their own in the 52nd minute when Cole Turner fired from 30 yards and clipped the top of the crossbar. On the hour-mark, however, the hosts pulled level as Nathan Harriel delivered a long ball forward for Caden Stafford, who just got the ball first and flicked his finish past the advancing goalkeeper and into the open net. Philadelphia then was awarded a chance to take the lead with 11 minutes to go as Hartford’s Matheus Silva brought down the Union II’s Issa Rayyan in the penalty area, but Rayyan’s effort from the penalty spot was saved as Michael Novotny made a diving stop on his shot to the left corner.

Novotny had to come up big again four minutes later as Anton Sorenson fired a low shot to the bottom-left corner that was parried wide for a corner, but then as the game ticked toward stoppage time a cross from the left was gathered by Union II goalkeeper Budler, who looked to throw out quickly. Barrera flung up a heel, and saw the ball carom off his foot, loop over the goalkeeper and bounce into the net for what proved to be the game-winner Man of the Match

Alex Lara, Hartford Athletic – Lara scored his first goal for Hartford and defensively made six clearances and six recoveries while completing 24 of 36 passes for the contest.


TACOMA, Wash. – Alec Diaz scored the lone goal while Tacoma goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky recorded a three-save shutout as Tacoma brought Repulic FC’s chances of a first-place finish in Group A to an end at Cheney Stadium.

Coming off a win in their last outing, Defiance opened the game brightly and almost took the lead in the 15th minute. United States youth international Ethan Dobbelaere broke forward from midfield and found Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez to his left as they approached the penalty area. Ocampo-Chavez created space to his left, but his shot was deflected into the left side-netting.

Republic FC’s first good look came a minute later as Frank Lopez gained possession in the left channel and cut inside past his defender, but Klenofsky got down well to keep out his shot toward the bottom-left corner. Tacoma’s Ray Serrano also went close seven minutes before the break with a curling shot that went just over the top-right corner of the net, while Lopez almost set up an opening goal with a low cross from the right that was turned behind by Defiance defender Antonee Burke-Gilroy to keep Cameron Iwasa from finishing at the back post.

Ocampo-Chavez found the woodwork midway through the second half as a free kick from the right by Robles was flicked on in the middle of the penalty area to the left side of the box, where Ocampo-Chavez slid in to connect on the volley only to see his shot go off the crossbar and away to safety.

With 19 minutes to go, however, the Defiance struck as Danny Reynolds brought down a long ball forward with his chest on the left to get past his marker and then delivered a low ball to the top of the six-yard area where Diaz slid into redirect his finish back into the left corner of the net. Sacramento tried to find an equalizer late on, and Matt Mahoney had a header saved with five minutes to go off a free kick from the right by Rodrigo Lopez. Tacoma held on for its first win against Sacramento this season, though, to ensure third place in the Group A standings. Man of the Match

Eric Klenofsky, Tacoma Defiance – Klenofsky commanded his penalty area well, not only finishing with three saves but also two punches and one high claim to record a clean sheet on home turf.

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