New Mexico United will travel to Cashman Field to play Las Vegas Lights FC this Saturday, June 15, 2019. It is the first USL Championship match-up of the year between the two Western Conference foes. New Mexico comes into the game on top of the conference with 25 points through their first 15 games. Las Vegas is quite away back in 14th place. As seems to be the case with about every matchup in the USL Championship Western Conference, the clubs are separated by more positions than points in the standings. Las Vegas currently sits on 16 points, just 9 less than New Mexico, and they have a game in hand. However, a -4 goal difference points closer to them being a 14th place club, than a playoff contender.
New Mexico would ordinarily be a heavy favorite against Las Vegas, even at Vegas, but they may be coming into this game with a bit of tired legs. That's because New Mexico is one of two USL teams, who are still alive and playing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This past Wednesday, June 12, 2019, they won a well deserved result over the MLS side, Colorado Rapids to advance to the Round of 16. It was a game that ended up going into extra time, and was eventually decided in penalties. This of course means that New Mexico will have guys who played 120 minutes on Wednesday, on just 3 days rest. Las Vegas on the other hand has had a full week since they last played, and if New Mexico ends up resting some of the regular starters, then it could open up the possibility of an upset.
Las Vegas Lights vs New Mexico United Vital Information
Referee assignments have referee Farhad Dadkho at center pitch, with Jeremy Weed and Matthew Rodman as the assistants, and Uriel Aguilera will be the 4th official. This will be the 1st meeting all-time between Las Vegas Lights and expansion New Mexico United. They will meet again later this season, at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, NM on October 19, 2019. That match will be the final match of the regular season for both clubs, and is likely to be a key match in determining playoff position/qualification.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
New Mexico has been a force to be reckoned with offensively, and are lead by the two headed monster of Kevaugh Frater and Santi Moar. Frater currently leads the league in scoring with 10 goals, and his having an absolutely MVP type season. Not only is Frater scoring frequently, he is scoring when it matters, and is clearly a vocal leader of the team on the pitch. Moar site just behind him with 9 goals. In fact, these two players have combined for 19 goals already, which is the same number that Las Vegas's entire team has scored this season.
The Las Vegas attack is lead by 25-year-old Irvin Parra, who has scored 8 goals through the first 16, matches of the season. He has added 3 assists as well, meaning that he has been involved in 58% of Las Vegas's goals this season. Parra is a guy who can beat you scoring, or passing the ball. Last year with Orange County, he had 10 goals and 10 assists, but with less talent around him, he is being relied on as the main finisher for Las Vegas. The team will be without him against New Mexico, as he is suspended by the team due to remarks about team pay made on Instagram.
New Mexico United's 31 goals are tied with Phoenix Rising FC for the most in the USL. Their defense is a bit of a concern however. Their 22 goals allowed are the most by any of the top 10 teams in the conference. Perhaps more concerning is that a check of the league leaders in saves. Their goalkeeper Cody Mizell is second in the league with 46, which translates to a defense that is allowing a high number of shots on target. Mizell has a very respectable 68% save percentage, but has kept just 2 clean sheets through 15 games.
Las Vegas comes into the match on a 4 game winless streak in the USL Championship. Their last victory was 3-0, over Colorado Springs Switchbacks on May 11, 2019. They are 0-2-2 in USL play since then. New Mexico lost their most recent USL Championship match by a 3-0 score to Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday, June 8, 2018. Prior to that, they had been on a 6 game unbeaten run. New Mexico has only lost twice this season, the other coming on April 20, 2019 against Reno 1868 FC.
Las Vegas has decided to shamelessly copy Phoenix Rising's wildly successful $1 beer night promotion, and will now be having $2 tequila shots at home games. Say what you will about Las Vegas, but their marketing department sure gets an A for effort. In addition to their wacky waving inflatable tube guys behind the goals, and hype man Bojo, they literally had kids in plastic swimming pools on the sidelines during their last home match.
Las Vegas Lights vs New Mexico United Prediction
New Mexico might be the strongest expansion team that the USL Championship has ever seen. Not only are they leading the Western Conference, but as mentioned above, they have advanced all the way to the Round of 16 in the Open Cup. That being said, anything can happen when you have a team on short rest that very well may have key players out of the lineup. There is also the possibility that the first $2 Tequila Night at Cashman Field could bring a large, loud, and raucous crowd to the stadium. Ultimately though, if New Mexico does get upset, I think it will be their achilles heel defense that is their undoing. I just don't know if Las Vegas has quite enough firepower to outscore them though, especially without Parra. I think that we are likely to see a depleted New Mexico roster as well though. On top of that, they are a team that has struggled a bit to put games away, evidenced by their league high 7 draws. I think that number is going to go up to 8 this Saturday as Vegas won't be able to score enough to beat New Mexico, but will do just enough to get a hard fought point out of this match.
Prediction: Las Vegas Lights 2 New Mexico United 2