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FC Dallas wary of upset-minded New Mexico United in U.S. Open Cup

FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said his team is not taking New Mexico United lightly in their U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 showdown.

Jun 12, 2019; University Park, TX, USA; FC Dallas forward Dominique Badji (14) and his teammates celebrate a goal in the second half against OKC Energy FC at Wescott Field. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

FRISCO,Tx. — After a resounding 4-0 victory over the Oklahoma City Energy in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, FC Dallas turn its attention to the next round and New Mexico United Wednesday as the USL Championship side travels to Dallas.

United entered in the second round, defeating Phoenix Rising FC on the road in penalties. The third round saw New Mexico defeat the Colorado Springs Switchbacks 2-1 in extra time, traveling once again. 

The Colorado Rapids were next to be knocked off by New Mexico United after a late equalizer by Kevaughn Frater sent the match to extra-time, with another penalty victory. Dallas knows not to take the upset-minded team from a lower league lightly.

“Even after we won against OKC and we knew who we were going to play, coach Luchi and the whole staff were making a big deal that we can’t take them lightly like Colorado did,” Edwin Cerrillo told Pro Soccer USA. “I think they just kept them in the game and let them play and do their thing. We’re coming out with that mentality that they’re a team that wants to advance in the tournament, same as us. You can’t take them lightly. We have to come out flying.”

For the second time in a week, Dallas will not be playing at Toyota Stadium. Southern Methodist’s Westcott Field, where the team played its fourth round match, will again be the home site, due to 2019 Gold Cup matches taking place in Frisco on June 20. While the pitch at SMU was not in the best condition, the team is not letting that run as an excuse. 

“It’s a little strange and weird not playing in the big stadium with a lot of fans,” Cerrillo said. “We’ve made that our home field and we’re still playing close to our city. We do have that home advantage to where our fans can still make it to the game. We’re taking it as our home field, our new stadium for this tournament as of right now and we’re going to go out there with the same confidence we had against OKC to try and move on.”

Gonzalez is acclimating players who were gone for international duty back into the team. Midfielder Pablo Aranguiz is the latest returning to the squad, while Edwin Cerrillo, Paxton Pomykal, and Brandon Servania were back last week from the U-20 World Cup. Cerrillo’s return to the lineup is welcomed, especially with midfielder Carlos Gruezo and Bryan Acosta out for Copa America and Gold Cup, respectively.

“Obviously, I wasn’t as fit as I left, but I think I’m starting to get my rhythm back,” Cerrillo said. “With the couple of minutes I got against OKC last week, it really boosted my confidence a little more and to just get more relaxed and get my rhythm a little bit back since I haven’t been playing. These last couple of days in training have been great and I’ve been working hard to get my fitness back to where it was as soon as possible.”

New Mexico United have the second most goals in the USL Championship with 32, trailing only Phoenix Rising FC. The team sits in third place in the Western Conference and has a very similar philosophy to FCD, wanting to impose its style of play on its opponents. Even against the Rapids, an MLS side, New Mexico United had 67 percent of the ball, garnering 22 shots with eight on target. As one of the last two USL sides left, United look like a squad more than capable of making a run in the tournament.

“We’re showing respect,” Gonzalez told Pro Soccer USA. “It’s all about respect. I don’t mean respect in terms of, ‘Hey, let’s give them a lot of time and space.’ No, it’s the opposite. It’s playing with a conviction to take control of the game and to be proactive to win. That’s respect to me. We respect New Mexico. It’s a new team, but so is Cincinnati. Atlanta has been in the league for only three years We need to respect teams that are at the professional level. The game is growing, the leagues are growing, and soccer is growing in this country. You can’t take anybody lightly.”

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