This season of the USL not only brings new teams but a new competition to the landscape of American soccer. Not a new competition for everyone, but for those teams whose borders come together to form the four corners. The supporter created cup will be awarded to the team with the highest point total from the regular season matches will lift the cup representing each of the four states. The cup was designed, paid for, and built by the supporters. What started as a dialogue over the internet is about to become a reality. Before we go any further we want to give recognition to the supporters that came together to make this happen. From Arizona it was the Red Fury who led the charge and reached out to the Trailheads (Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC), Wasatch Legion (Real Monarchs SLC), and the Sandianistas and the Curse (New Mexico United). With that, I want to give supporters of these groups a look into the squads they will be facing. Let us start with newcomers, New Mexico United.
New Mexico United will be nine months old when the USL season kicks off. Like most expansion teams, a lot of work has to go into not only building a brand but a team. It seems that New Mexico United has taken a lot of time in considering their supporter base with nodes to the history of New Mexico in their crest. They also focused the building of their squad around New Mexico native, Devon Sandoval. Devon has the most MLS experience on the squad having spent three seasons with Real Salt Lake. In his 87 appearances for the club, Devon managed to score 11 goals with 5 assists. After some time on loans at USL clubs, Devon spent last season on loan at Atlanta United 2 where he made 25 appearances and only scored 3 goals. Being the club’s marquee signing and going down as the first signing in the history of the club, this is a big year for Sandoval. He is likely to lead the line for New Mexico United and will be expected to deliver. This can be a tough ask for a guy spent most of his playing career coming off the bench. One person Phoenix Rising supporters will recognize is Kevaughn Frater. He had the ability to come off the bench and provide a spark to Phoenix last season and will be expected to do the same in New Mexico. My bold prediction is that Frater will end the season with more goals than Sandoval.
More Impact Players In This Year’s USL Four Corners Cup Competition
Another player that I believe could make an impact for this expansion team is Sam Hamilton. The defensive midfielder from Colorado was drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft. He only made a handful of appearances with the club before signing with New Mexico. This position could be vital to a successful first season in the USL. Hamilton will be needed to provide protection to a backline that is creating chemistry. At 23, He should have the energy to control the middle of the pitch to ease pressure and look to spring the attack. Surely, he is looking at this move as a step to kickstarting his career.
Finally, New Mexico United number one will be Cody Mizell. At 27, he is a veteran in the USL having played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies on two occasions. In 56 appearances in the USL, Mizell has given up 71 goals and recorded only 12 shut outs which comes out to 1.2 goals per game. As with most players on the team, Mizell is going to have step up in a huge way for his new club. They are going to be looking for him to keep them in games early on. My bold prediction is that Mizell will average 1.8 goals per game by the end of the season.
Overall, New Mexico supporters should be excited about this season. I don’t believe that New Mexico will make it to the playoffs, but that should not be the metric for a successful season. They have made an impact in their community. If they stay competitive this season, the owners, front office, coaching staff, players, and supporters should consider that successful. I would look for them to finish around 15th in the West.