skip navigation

Never tell them the odds – how New Mexico United earned a postseason berth

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/14/23, 12:10PM EDT


From 11th place and seven percent odds to reach the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs, United soared with three consecutive wins

New Mexico United closed its regular season with a third consecutive victory to earn a place in the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs despite long odds with three weekends to go. | Photo courtesy Brandino / New Mexico United

With three games to go, New Mexico United’s playoff chances weren’t looking great.

United sat 11th place in the Western Conference.

The side had won only once in its prior six outings.

On top of that, it was set to face three teams sitting in fifth place or higher in their respective conferences to close the regular season.

Add it together, and the predictor model had the side at a seven percent chance to make the playoffs.

But, to coin a phrase, never tell Amando Moreno the odds.

“I never really look at statistics,” said Moreno on Friday night, after he’d played a key role in New Mexico upsetting the formbook.

With a 4-1 victory against Memphis 901 FC before New Mexico’s season-high attendance of 11,385 fans at Isotopes Park that saw Moreno provide two assists, Greg Hurst score twice, United locked up a fourth trip to the postseason in five seasons after its third consecutive victory.  

“I know what I can do,” added Moreno. “I know what this team's about. I know what we’re trying to do, ourselves, and that’s the most important thing. You hear all the negativity, but for us to come out and have all these fans enjoy what we do, that's the most important thing.”

Don’t think those numbers didn’t get attention within the New Mexico locker room – “I’m glad they put those numbers out there,” said United Head Coach Eric Quill. “It’s motivation.” – but for a club that has never seemingly done things the easy way, this might have been the only fitting conclusion to the campaign for the Kings of Chaos.

Having secured control of its path last weekend with a first road victory in club history against Phoenix Rising FC while every other team in the lower half of the Western Conference suffered defeat, New Mexico grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck on Friday night. A training ground corner kick that released Harry Swartz to the back post, where he was left unmarked to turn home Justin Portillo’s fifth assist of the season put the side ahead after just four minutes, and nine minutes later Moreno’s first assist of the night sent Zico Bailey in for a second.

Memphis hit back early in the second half, a moment that could have caused some apprehension as 901 FC needed just a draw to secure a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference, but those were quickly allayed. Moreno’s slide-rule pass to set up Hurst’s first goal of the night in the 61st minute calmed any nerves before the Scottish forward put the game away with 19 minutes to go.

“I’ll be the first to admit that goals-wise this year, it hasn't been there for me,” said Hurst, who doubled his league total for the season in one night. “I had the feeling that I was going to have the chance to prove to this club that they’re still there. I’ve loved every minute of being here. So, to get two goals tonight in such an important match is one of the best feelings I've had in football.”

New Mexico United fans celebrate as their club took victory on Friday night to secure a place in the USL Championship Playoffs with a 4-1 win against Memphis 901 FC. | Photo courtesy Brandino / New Mexico United

“I called it. I said he was going to have two tonight,” added Quill. “[Hurst], for the last two weeks hasn’t put a foot wrong. He deserved these two goals tonight, based on how he’s been training. And, what he brings us with his finishing touch, but also with his link-up play, and his ability to defend for us up top, and really put opponents under pressure – it’s high level, and we’re going to ride it right now. He’s our guy.”

New Mexico will now await its opponent in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, to be determined by Saturday night’s clash between Oakland Roots SC and Oakland Roots SC. Whether the side gets a trip to No. 1 seed Sacramento Republic FC – a game that would be a repeat from its inaugural season – or a visit to one of San Antonio FC, San Diego Loyal SC, or Orange County SC as the No. 7 seed, the momentum the club has built could provide the impetus for an upset.

For a side that has, out of necessity, faced the past three weeks as playoff games, the belief instilled by the club’s longest winning streak this season has United aiming high.

“If you look at our last three games, we're beating big, top teams,” said Hurst. “We’re not just doing our best against teams that are below us or around us. We’re going and taking points against top teams in this league. So, it’s just a massive, massive confidence boost. And I think our confidence is high.”

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos