New Mexico United remained in contention for the playoffs until the final day of the regular season in 2021, but the side’s defeat in its penultimate contest to Rio Grande Valley FC proved decisive as the Toros held onto their one-point lead and took the final postseason berth in the Mountain Division. For United, it brought the curtain down on a disappointing campaign overall that saw Chris Wehan’s outstanding effort after his midseason return just come up short as he tried to pull the side over the finish line.
At the heart of New Mexico’s struggles last season was its attacking punch and creativity in the final third. The side recorded the fifth-fewest chances created in the USL Championship’s regular season with 254 – an average of only 7.9 per game – and sat with the 10th-fewest shots at 368. The side also had a propensity to let leads slip away, with New Mexico’s 22 points dropped from winning positions the second-most in the league behind only Las Vegas Lights FC.
This offseason the side and new Head Coach Zach Prince have looked to rectify those issues with free agent signing Neco Brett maybe the biggest offseason move within the league after a stellar two seasons at Birmingham Legion FC. The Jamaican currently sits on 62 regular season goals in the Championship and can provide the attacking punch to boost the production delivered by Wehan, who is set to return to the side again. Other notable moves include a trade for ex-United States international Jerome Kiesewetter with FC Tulsa as Brian Brown headed the other way, while the experience of Justin Portillo and Will Seymore should prove useful in midfield. United has made a major impact on the league in its first three years through its fans and culture. If things go the plan this year on the field, it could result in a serious challenge for silverware.
Neco Brett – Jamaican forward brings proven goalscoring presence to United’s front line
Justin Portillo – Veteran midfielder claimed title in 2019 with Real Monarchs, brings MLS experience
Jerome Kiesewetter – Former United States international will look to add to New Mexico’s attack
Alexis Souahy – Former LouCity center back was selected by Comoros for Africa Cup of Nations in January
Devon Sandoval – Albuquerque native stepped away from the team late in 2021 after discovery of blood clots
Justin Schmidt – Former defender elected to enlist in the United States Army
Juan Pablo Guzman – Veteran midfielder departed club after passing 200 appearances in Championship
Brian Brown – Jamaican forward was traded to FC Tulsa in exchange for Jerome Kiesewetter
Chris Wehan, Midfielder
The offseason departure to Orange County SC and midseason return by Chris Wehan provided New Mexico United the boost it needed in the attacking third to remain in the playoff race through to the final weekend of the regular season. Wehan recorded 10 goals in 15 appearances for United after his return to the club, but it wasn’t quite enough to pull the side into the postseason. The 28-year-old has now recorded 42 goals and 29 assists in 114 appearances in the Championship’s regular season for his career, making him one of the league’s most prolific playmakers in the past five years. If that production continues with the new attacking pieces United has added this offseason there should be a far happier ending to this season at Isotopes Park.
One of the biggest offseason moves within the USL Championship was the signing by New Mexico United of Jamaican forward Neco Brett, whose resume in the league places him one of the most consistent scoring threats the Championship has in its ranks. Over the past four seasons, Brett has recorded 55 regular season goals in 111 appearances and has averaged at least a goal every other game in every season over that span. Brett’s underlying numbers say this is sustainable, too – his cumulative Expected Goals mark for the past four years is 54.22xG, while his shot conversion rate has averaged to 20.86 percent, slightly above average among players with at least 30 goals in the past four seasons, but not excessively so. With the service Brett is likely to get, the chances are good the 29-year-old delivers another impressive season.
Zach Prince (1st Season)
Part of the New Mexico United organization since early in its history, former assistant coach Zach Prince was named the second Head Coach in club history after the departure of Troy Lesesne early last offseason. A former player in the Championship who won the league title with the Charleston Battery in 2012, Prince will aim to put his imprint on the side as it tries to rebound back into playoff contention with a new-look squad.
40Since the start of the 2019 USL Championship season, new signing Neco Brett has recorded 40 regular season goals in the league. Over the same span, United’s leading scorer has been Chris Wehan with 26 goals, while only one other player – Devon Sandoval – surpassed 20 goals in the club’s colors.