The thing about being the underdog is that once that moniker is gone, you’re left without a title. Minnesota United’s Open Cup journey this season has paired them with the current holders in the Houston Dynamo and the previous holders, and four time champions, in Sporting KC. Despite the well-documented struggles of Sporting KC this year, the Loons went into both of those games as the underdog. The only Open Cup game they haven’t been the underdog in was last season shootout win over the USL version of FC Cincinnati. You know, the one that brought us this clip.
After knocking off the previous champions, the Loons get to welcome one of the newest teams in American professional soccer, New Mexico United. New Mexico United are currently 3rd in the USL Championship’s Western Conference, four points behind Phoenix Rising and one point behind El Paso Locomotive FC with a couple games in hand. The first year club has a record of 6-3-7 with +5 goal differential. While only halfway through the 34 game season, they should be comfortably within the playoff spots and could even be fighting to host a playoff game at Isotopes Park if the continue their strong season.
New Mexico United isn’t too far from where Minnesota United was a few years ago. They had the soccer history in the 90s, thanks to the New Mexico Chiles(owing to the vegetable, not the restaurant), followed by the Albuquerque Geckos shortly after that. Recently there was a lack of professional soccer in the Land of Enchantment that was filled by the semi-pro Albuquerque Sol in 2014.
The goal of 21st century soccer in New Mexico didn’t end with the Sol. The plan was always to drop the ‘semi’ and have a pro team to represent the great state. The first step was to join the USL Championship, which they accomplished this season with New Mexico United. The Albuquerque Sol play in USL League 2 and are currently in 4th place in the Mountain Division, but have games in hand over each of the teams above them. While the two USL teams are not technically affiliates, the Sol have already placed one player with New Mexico United and the founder of the Sol was hired away by United when they came into existence.
Currently, they play their home games in, and fill, Isotopes Park in Albuquerque. They currently sit on top of the attendance leader board with an average attendance of almost 13,000 people. Isotopes Park is only temporary though, as the team is building towards the possibility of a soccer specific stadium, as well as a potential bid for an MLS slot in the not too distant future.
With the Open Cup Quarterfinal only a few weeks away between the Loons and the new United on the block, now is the perfect time see how the two teams stack up in all the important(and unimportant) categories.
Kevaughn Frater- The 24 year old Jamaican is the top scorer for New Mexico United and leads all USL Championship players with 10 league goals. He hasn’t let up in the Cup either, with his three goals and one assist being instrumental in both scalps that his team has picked up so far. On the off chance that Frater is misfiring, Santi Moar is right there with nine league goals to pick up the slack. Due to a suspension from an accumulation of yellow cards, Santi Moar will be the one tormenting the Loons backline in a few days time. Locking down the midfield behind the attack is Muhammed Saalih who boasts an impressive 85% pass accuracy this season.
Darwin Quintero- For the northermost United, Darwin Quintero remains the team’s most mercurial player. When he’s on, he’s downright unstoppable, but when he’s not, his insistence on chipping anyone and everyone around him can cost the team opportunities. With four goals and one assist in two Cup games so far, Loons fans will be hoping his woes are behind him.
Biodiversity of Waterfoul:
With each state having a bird central to their culture(loons and roadrunners), it’s only appropriate that we compare the relative biodiversity of each state
New Mexico- 38 unique species of ducks, geese, and waterfoul
Minnesota- 45 unique species of ducks, geese, and waterfoul
New Mexico- Meow Wolf. Meow Wolf is an interactive, immersive art experience based in Santa Fe. Just don’t tell them wolves don’t actually meow.
Minnesota- Target. Target is an interactive, immersive buying experience based in Minneapolis. Your one stop shop for bars, sunscreen, and anything else you need. Avoid shopping there wearing a red shirt at all costs.
New Mexico- Greater Roadrunner. I can only assume that the Greater Roadrunner beat out the Lesser Roadrunner for the job of New Mexico State Bird or the Less Roadrunner was wiped out by the Coyote, leaving us with only one roadrunner.
Minnesota- Common Loon. Now I kind of wish our state bird was called the Best Loon, or Superior Loon.
New Mexico- Cody Mizell. Mizell has been fanastic for New Mexico this season during their Cup run. He and his defense have only conceded six goals in regular time in their four Open Cup games and have survived two penalty shootouts to move this far. He only has two shutouts in 14 league matches and a goals against average of 1.9, but more often than not the offense has been able to bail them out when needed.
Minnesota- Vito Mannone. The ex-Arsenal man has been a mainstay between the sticks this season, racking up 20 starts and five clean sheets in all competitions this season. Given the late stage of the tournament, it seems unlikely that rookie Dayne St. Clair gets a shot in goal.
New Mexico- Green Chile. Specifically Hatch Green Chile from Hatch, New Mexico. These delicious little peppers go on everything. Burgers, eggs, sushi, a spoon, you name it, green chilies are a topping.
Minnesota- Wild Rice. Equally versatile, but in a host of different ways. While green chilies go on everything, wild rice is a staple in a variety of dishes from brats to soups to stuffing and more. Is it too much to ask for a wild rice burger topped with some green chilies in the Brew Hall during the game?
New Mexico- Troy Lesesne. Troy got his professional career started with the Charleston Battery. After two years of playing, he moved to the other side of the touchline permanently as an assistant coach with the College of Charleston. In 2014 he split time between the Montreal Impact and Charleston Battery, where he spend two more seasons before heading up New Mexico United. In addition to his playing and coaching career, he has also been named on the of Top 20 Assistant Coaches and one of the 30 Under 30 Coaches to Watch.
Minnesota- Adrian Heath. The main man himself, Inchy. By the time Troy Lesesne was born, Inchy was already playing for his second, and most well know team, Everton. He finished his playing career and starting his managerial career at Burnley in 1996 and joined MLS in 2015 with Orlando City after spending several years with them as a USL franchise. Despite some ups and downs and growning pains along the way, he is on track to guide the Loons to their first MLS playoff birth.
Most Famous TV Show:
New Mexico- There’s only one show that really fits this category and that’s Breaking Bad. I can’t tell you what green chile on blue meth tastes like for a variety of reasons.
Minnesota- This one was a toss up. My gut says Mary Tyler Moore Show. My gut also says Little House on the Prairie. Since the only one I’ve actually seen (briefly) is MTMS, I have to give the nod to Betty White and Co.
Regardless of the outcome on July 10th, the game should be a fun affair.
We are always so amazed by your passion for this team. We sold out of spots for the trip in 8 minutes and had 22,000 people on the site when it opened!! If you didn't get tickets, please enter our video contest - it will be open until midnight tomorrow: https://t.co/2Y82exhh22 pic.twitter.com/kwNNZpywwt— New Mexico United (@NewMexicoUTD) June 25, 2019
New Mexico United are building something special and could be a new MLS opponent before too long. They’ve got a passionate community behind them and plenty of green chilies to go around.