Albuquerque Journal


- — Ken Sickenger

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New Mexico (0-0-0): United will make its season debut with a mixture of returnees and new faces. The attacking line will feature some fan favorites, including Chris Wehan, Cristian Nava and Amando Moreno. The latter two could be primed for big seasons after missing significan­t time with injuries in 2022. They’ll be joined up front by Santi Moar and Greg Hurst, both of whom played for Phoenix Rising last season. Midfielder Justin Portillo returns after a strong season, leading United with eight goals, five assists and 63 chances created. Veteran and newly installed captain Sam Hamilton provides a steadying force at midfield. NMU’s back line is anchored by returnees. Goalkeeper Alex Tambakis posted seven clean sheets last season playing behind solid returning defenders Austin Yearwood and Kalen Ryden.

Miami (0-0-1): Miami FC was oddly similar to United last season, enjoying more success on the road (10 wins) than it did at home (five wins). MFC scored 48 goals overall, while NMU scored 49. Forward Kyle Murphy, who signed a contract extension in the offseason, led Miami with 10 goals and 51 shots, picking up two of his tallies in a 3-0 win in Albuquerqu­e. Midfielder Florian Valot returns as the top playmaker after posting five goals, eight assists and 55 chances created in 2022. Valot scored from long range in Miami’s 1-1 draw with FC Tulsa last week. Defense was a strength for MFC last season as it allowed just 35 goals and tied a USLC record with 17 shutouts. Goalkeeper Connor Sparrow has since moved to Tampa Bay with Adrian Zendejas (on loan from MLS Charlotte FC) taking over in net. Defender Paco Craig is regarded as one of the USLC’s best.

NOTEWORTHY: New Mexico enters 2023 largely healthy. Midfielder Sergio Rivas has missed time in the preseason with a lower body issue but has been progressin­g in training, coach Zach Prince said. … Wehan needs just one goal to reach 50 for his USLC career. … Miami midfielder Bolu Akinyode served a one-game suspension versus Tulsa and will be eligible to play against New Mexico.

 ?? ?? Sam Hamilton
Sam Hamilton

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