The 2023 USL Championship playoffs kick off this weekend with the Conference Quarterfinal round. Top-seeded Republic FC will face off with New Mexico United for a rematch of last year’s first round contest at Heart Health Park with a berth in the Conference Semis on the line. Ahead of the contest, get another look at the Albuquerque Club – who stormed into the postseason:
How They Got Here
New Mexico secured its playoff berth by winning big games when it mattered most. Ahead of the regular season’s final three weeks, they surged from 11th in the West to over the playoff line with wins in their final three games. Their streak began with win over 2022 finalist Louisville City in shutout fashion, continued with a 2-1 win over neighboring Phoenix Rising in hostile territory, and wrapped with a 4-1 win over Memphis 901 FC. The club will come to Sacramento having won four of its last six, with just one defeat since September 15.
Throughout the campaign, the United elevated their play against top opponents, posting 10 of 13 wins this season against teams that qualified for the playoffs. They’ve proven to be one of the toughest teams to play against in the league, winning eight games by one score and claiming seven points in come-from behind fashion.
Names to Watch
Much of United’s roster has featured for the club for multiple seasons. Justin Portillo, Harry Swartz, Santi Moar, Armando Moreno and others all have history against Republic FC. Each can make an impact in the middle of the park and have been key chance creators for their side throughout 2023. Moreno led the squad with ten goals in the regular season, and Portillo was among the league’s leaders in chances created with 54, putting him inside the top 10.
A pair of new additions have supplemented the existing core and provided a jolt. The backline has been added to with defender Zico Bailey – formerly of San Antonio FC, and Arturo Astoraga, who signed on in September after featuring for the club’s USL League Two squad over the summer.
Against Sacramento this Season
United and Sacramento played twice in the regular season, first on July 22 in Albuquerque and again at Heart Health Park on September 20. New Mexico took four points from the two contests, defeating the Quails 3-0 in the first fixture before the two shared sides points in a scoreless draw in their second meeting. In each game, things were tight in the first half before opening up in the second.