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3 takeaways from Rhode Island FC’s debut draw with New Mexico

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/16/24, 6:46PM EDT


In front of sellout crowd, hosts earn deserved point as structure, substitutions pay off in impressive display

Rhode Island FC grabbed a late equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw against New Mexico United before a sellout crowd of 5,252 fans at Beirne Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the club’s inaugural game in the USL Championship.

Here are three things we took away from the action.


With the energy emanating from the sellout crowd on hand, Rhode Island FC produced a stellar opening outing that was eventually rewarded with Mark Doyle’s late equalizer in second-half stoppage time, a result that on the balance of the contest the hosts likely deserved. RIFC midfielder Clay Holstad, in fact, was unfortunate to not put the side ahead in the first half with a pair of tremendous efforts – one rasping drive, and another curling strike – that both struck the woodwork as RIFC ended the first half on the front foot.

The result aside, however, there was plenty that felt as anticipated in how Rhode Island looked as a side. Goalkeeper Koke Vegas reprised his role as a de facto sweeper, taking up positions you might expect from a center back at times in possession, and his long distribution gave the hosts options to keep United off balance in how they built their attacks. The potential for this side was evident, and will be worth following closely.


With Rhode Island digging for an equalizer after Talen Maples had put New Mexico ahead in the 68th minute, the substitutions that RIFC Head Coach Khano Smith deployed ended up as the game-changer the hosts needed. The introduction of Prince Saydee with 15 minutes to go provided a boost of energy in the attacking third, livening up an attack that until that point had been limited to only one shot in the second half.

Doyle’s introduction with three minutes to go, effectively a last roll of the dice, provided the final push to the line as he slid in at the far post to score at close range off Noah Fuson’s angled cross. The Irish forward might even have grabbed a winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time, only to be denied by an outstanding save by New Mexico goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. Having players who can make an impact off the bench is an invaluable resource for any side, and it came through in a big way for RIFC in its opening game.


There was little New Mexico United goalkeeper Alex Tambakis could do about Rhode Island FC’s equalizer, but the veteran was in impressive form and key to the visitors earning a point. Not all of the nine saves Tambakis made across the 90 minutes was spectacular, but he was assured at key moments in both halves to make a pair of big stops on 2023 Championship Golden Boot winner Albert Dikwa before his late heroics tipping Mark Doyle’s potential game-winner over the crossbar.

Tambakis ranks second in the Championship all-time in saves and shutouts, but at times since his arrival in New Mexico hasn’t always been among the better goalkeepers in Goal Prevented numbers. With only one goal conceded in two games to start the new campaign, that could be changing for the better.

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