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'We flipped the script': United scores twice late to edge El Paso 3-2

Apr. 6—The final minutes of Saturday night's rivalry match at Isotopes Park were enough to warm New Mexico United fans' hearts.

After falling behind on a penalty kick in the 87th minute, United roared back with late goals by Jacobo Reyes and Nicky Hernandez to pull out a wild 3-2 victory in front of 9,019 delighted fans.

The two late tallies — one in the 89th minute and one in stoppage time — rewrote a storyline that would have been tough for NMU fans to swallow. El Paso had taken its brief lead on a penalty kick by former United standout Amando Moreno, who was steadily booed by the New Mexico faithful throughout the night.

But NMU (3-1-1) turned the tide in stunning fashion and kept Locomotive FC — its most bitter rival — winless on the season at 0-3-1.

"I about had a heart attack in the last 10 minutes," United coach Eric Quill said. "But I think the fans gave us a lift and we gave them one to look back on with pleasure. Crazy!"

A pair of late-game substitutions played starring roles in United's comeback.

First, Reyes, who had just entered the match as a substitute after Moreno's goal, headed a well-placed Marco Micaletto chip over Locos goalkeeper Jahmali Waite to even the score at 2-2. It was part of a big night for Micaletto, who also netted NMU's opening goal.

"Jacobo and I made quick eye contact and I knew where he wanted the ball," Micaletto said. "Jacobo put it in a perfect spot, fantastic."

Fans were still on their feet moments later when Hernandez slammed home a low shot on an assist from Daniel Bruce, who came on as another late-match substitute. Hernandez's goal in the first minute of stoppage time, kept the crowd roaring until the final whistle and touched off a celebration near the south goal.

"That showed the resilience of our team," Quill said. "Brucey and Jacobo come on in the 88th minute and contribute the tying goal and the game-winning assist. We flipped the script out of nowhere."

Fans were bundled up from the beginning of a chilly, windy evening at Isotopes Park, but the home side quickly gave them something to cheer about. Dayonn Harris beat the El Paso defense down the left wing in the seventh minute, and fired a cross back through the center of the penalty area.

The ball found Micaletto just outside the box, and he blasted a winner back into the left-side netting for a 1-0 lead. It was Micaletto's first goal since signing with United during the offseason.

Both teams had their chances to score before halftime, including a pair of short-range opportunities for Moreno that were turned aside by NMU goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. But the score remained 1-0 through intermission and well into the second half before things suddenly got crazy.

El Paso got even in the 81st minute when Justin Dhillon got past a defender near the NMU end line and sent a cross through the box. Joaquim Rivas was in position to redirect the ball past Tambakis for a tying goal. The Locos then pulled in front when United was whistled for taking a player down in the box, setting up a go-ahead penalty by Moreno.

"I felt like we kind of let them get the momentum," Quill said, "and after they got one goal, it turned into two. Such a roller-coaster night, but I'm so glad to see our team keep fighting and find a way."

Added Micaletto, "Even after they got that second goal, we all believed we would get another touch. We believed it and made it happen."