It wouldn’t be a match between New Mexico United and Phoenix Rising FC if there weren’t fireworks involved. The third US Open Cup meeting between the rivals exploded just before the halftime whistle and remained contentious until United escaped with a 2-1 victory to advance to the Round of 32.
After having to play all of their prior Open Cup matches either on the road or at the UNM Soccer Complex, New Mexico was finally able to host a tournament match on their home pitch. Hometown kid Alex Waggoner was handed his first career start and led the United attack for much of the night. Throughout the first half, the New Mexico native put himself into positions that begged for the ball to be delivered to him. The chances were few and far between for the United Academy graduate, however.
Tell us how you really feel, @GregHurst10 ????— New Mexico United (@NewMexicoUTD) April 27, 2023
Greg’s first goal for United also goes down as our first Open Cup goal in The Lab, making it the @budlight Play of the Match! #SomosUnidos pic.twitter.com/fvCe1Riwhi
”It’s special in front of our home fans to show and display a performance real good,” said United midfielder Daniel Bruce. “But we take it one game at a time. This is a tournament that we enjoy as players and it’s another chance to show our fans we love this club.”
Neither side separated themselves in terms of attacking opportunities, but the visitors looked to have the edge when it came to set pieces. Rising’s best opportunity in the half came around the half-hour mark when they won a series of corner kicks. United’s back four stood tall and was able to clear every threat they were presented with.
With under five minutes to play in the half, Bruce was able to put his pace to good use and streamed up the pitch, not once, but twice in a matter of minutes. On the first of the two runs towards the south goal, Bruce made it to the top of the area before being dispossessed. The second time however, the Englishman made a read to his right and laid the ball off for Greg Hurst. The forward’s first attempt on goal was blocked, but fell right back to him, allowing him to slot the ball home into the bottom left corner for a 1-0 lead.
Open Cup Dolling shines bright ???? @JoshDolling scored the game-winning goal against Phoenix to take us to the Open Cup Round of 32. Oh, he’s also the tournament’s current leading scorer with four goals in two games ???? Josh is our @Pepsi Man of the Match! #SomosUnidos pic.twitter.com/7JUJUQ1y4G— New Mexico United (@NewMexicoUTD) April 27, 2023
Moments later the rivals converged, first at midfield, then again along the western touchline. The latter incident was set off after an apparent foul by Bruce on Baboucarr Njie. As the pair went down, Njie kicked out at Bruce, earning himself a red card.
Up a man, it would have looked to an outsider that United would have clear control of the match. Rising had other plans though. From the start of the second half, Rising didn’t look like they were down a man. The visitors looked crisp on the counterattack and pressed United early on. In the 78th, Rising earned a free kick from twenty-five yards out. The shot went off the crossbar and in the resulting scramble Carlos Harvey was able to put the ball away for the equalizer, 1-1.
“Credit to them (Phoenix Rising) for fighting back. I thought they did a really good job of that,” said United head coach Zach Prince. “They spread us out and were able to really work the possession in their favor.”
One of the season’s new arrivals for United gave them the lead once again in the 87th. Against the run of play, United finally put their man advantage to good use. Josh Dolling, who had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes, collected a deflection near the top of the area and calmly slotted home to put United up for good, 2-1.