Late-game exploits have been business as usual for Oakland Roots SC this season.
Oakland, which hosts New Mexico United at Laney College on Wednesday night, has been at its best with the clock ticking down. Roots SC have scored 12 of their 24 goals this season in the last 15 minutes of regular or stoppage time.
Late strikes helped Roots SC rebuild a seven-game unbeaten streak that puts them just one point behind Phoenix Rising for the final USL Championship playoff spot.
New Mexico coach Zach Prince is well aware of Oakland’s propensity to find the net late. Roots SC (4-4-8) scored in second-half stoppage time on March 30 at Isotopes Park to earn a 2-2 draw and leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Prince and his players.
United, who are riding their own four-game winning streak, are hoping to avoid any late disappointment in Wednesday’s rematch. The key, Prince said, is to get started quickly.
“Oakland are a good team and they scored a lot of goals late in the game,” he said. “But for us, the mood doesn’t change whether it’s the first minute or the 90th minute. If we want to be in a good position at the end of the game, we have to focus on the first 15 minutes and build from there.
The final minutes of games weren’t always pleasant for New Mexico (6-2-4), which allowed four second-half goals this season and scored just one. This includes United’s last outing on June 4, when hosts Orange County scored in the 91st minute to halve a 2-0 deficit and then had a penalty opportunity.
Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis made a diving save to preserve a road win for United.
“It’s good to have Alex there,” said midfielder Sergio Rivas. “When the game is on the line you know he can make a great save. It gives us confidence. »
In recent weeks, United have also boosted confidence on the attacking side. After going nearly four full matches without a goal, NMU’s attack have scored 13 goals in their last four outings.
“I think it’s a matter of having a lot of new players,” Rivas said. “Getting to know everyone’s trends takes a bit of time before everyone starts clicking. This is where we are now.
Wednesday’s game will be United’s first in 11 days, and Prince stressed the importance of not letting the momentum slip away during the break.
Midfielder Harry Swartz agreed.
“I think it’s good for the body to have a break,” Swartz said, “but we’re also happy with the winning streak, and we’re not happy. We’ve been working hard to keep improving. and the coaches have done a good job of challenging us and reminding us that we haven’t achieved anything yet.
INJURY UPDATES: Several key players are closing in on returning for New Mexico. Defender Austin Yearwood, who has missed the last four games, took full part in practice on Monday. Midfielder Josh Suggs and striker Amando Moreno participated on a limited basis.
Suggs has only played two games this season with a lower-body injury, while Moreno is recovering from ACL surgery in the offseason.
COMING HOME: After Wednesday’s game, United will play three of their next four home games. NMU has only played Albuquerque once since a May 7 tie with the San Diego Loyal, which was their last appearance at Isotopes Park. NMU and Colorado Springs have played four home games apiece this season, the fewest among Western Conference clubs.