Still sizzling: United tops San Antonio FC, stays perfect at home

May 25—Another home match, another narrow victory.

New Mexico United fought off a slow start and kept its home record perfect Saturday, riding two late first-half goals to a 2-1 win over San Antonio FC in front of 8,538 fans at windy Isotopes Park.

Greg Hurst set up one goal — Nannan Houssou's first of the season — and rocketed home the eventual game winner as NMU won its eighth straight match at Isotopes Park dating back to last season. New Mexico (7-2-1) won its third straight in USL Championship play and climbed into first place in the Western Conference after Sacramento Republic's late draw with Birmingham.

"It's great for the players, great for the organization," NMU coach Eric Quill said of moving into first place. "Obviously, there's still a long way to go and I'm just as happy to get a six-point swing over San Antonio by winning tonight. Great response by the guys after a long week."

United, which won a U.S. Open Cup match in New York on Tuesday, did not seem to have its typical energy early Saturday but warmed to the task as the evening went on. Hurst sparked the turnaround with some fancy footwork to set up Houssou's goal.

"I just felt like we were laying back, not much going for us," Hurst said of the opening 30 minutes. "I figured there was nothing to lose and tried to make something happen and Houssou found an open spot. He made the most of it and than kind of got us going."

SAFC, playing its first match in two weeks, was the aggressor for much of the first 30 minutes. The visitors kept United bottled up in its own end for long stretches and capitalized on a perfectly placed serve by Kevon Lambert from near midfield.

The ball found Luke Haakenson, who muscled past NMU's Chris Gloster and headed a cross-field shot into the net in the 21st minute.

San Antonio threatened to make it 2-0 just a minute later, thwarted only by a scrambling clearance by United goalkeeper Alex Tambakis.

"The first 30 minutes were in (SAFC's) favor," Quill said. "They found a goal on a nice direct serve, but I thought we played beautifully after that."

It wasn't until the 30th minute that the momentum started to change. After forcing the action for several minutes, United worked the ball to Hurst left of the SAFC goal. He worked the ball between a defender's legs, drew more San Antonio defenders toward him, then fired a deflected pass to Houssou for an open drive into the net.

Hurst struck again four minutes into first-half stoppage time, one-timing a 27-yard rocket past SAFC goalkeeper Kendall McIntosh off a centering header from Dayonn Harris. It was Hurst's team-leading fifth goal of the season.

"When Hursty's in top form, he's lethal," Quill said. "He's in great form right now."

Neither team would find the net again, though United continued to press throughout the second half and had several close calls. Defender Abdi Mohamed said communication was key as United's defense managed to slow a direct SAFC attack that had given New Mexico fits in previous meetings.

"Our back line is playing really well," he said. "Communication is the biggest thing against a direct team like that and I thought we did well with that. The way we're playing now, it's fun."

United outshot SAFC 13-9 overall, 5-3 in shots on target, and held 57% of the possession.

"Great job killing the game," Quill said. "We stayed aggressive and just killed it."