Days from now, the New Mexico soccer world will embark on the first part of a new journey for the sport when the New Mexico Runners arena soccer team debuts at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
The Runners, who announced their formation on June 20th, are part of the MASL 2 league, which is a second-tier league to the MASL arena soccer league. The team will become part of the newly formed Mountain Division, with its division competitors being Colorado Inferno FC, the Colorado Rumble, the New Mexico Elite, and Cuervos of Juarez.
“Since (MASL 2) came to town back in September of 2017 and tried it out in this market, I figured it would be the best league to join,” said Runners President and former ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM on-air personality, Andres Trujillo. “…we elected to be in the MASL 2 because it is tailored to mid-markets rather than the MASL which is tailored for major markets like Dallas, Baltimore, etc.”
To get things started with the franchise, the team hired on Steve Famiglietta to become their inaugural head coach. Famiglietta is a former standout in the New Mexico soccer world, playing for both Cibola High School and the University of New Mexico. A nominee to the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame, Famiglietta is a USL Hall-of-Famer and also played arena soccer during his career in the Southwest Indoor Soccer League.
“I was very excited, and at the same time cautious,” Famiglietta said about receiving the job offer to coach the Runners. “Once I met with Andres, it only added to my excitement.”
The Runners continue to compile their roster as the days go on, looking to build a solid team to start their first season. Casey Gasson was the first signee for New Mexico, tasked to be the Runners goalkeeper. Gasson moved from the Kansas City Comets in the MASL to the Runners because of his roots with New Mexico. Gasson moved to Albuquerque when he was just 12 years old.
“The team is looking really well. We’re looking for talented players, players that are disciplined that are gonna be at practice, and that work hard,” Gasson said. “We just wanna have a good team, we have the talent here like I’ve been telling people for years.”
Gasson will also serve the role of assistant coach with the team. According to Trujillo, Gasson’s experience with the game of arena soccer allows him to play and coach the goalkeepers of the Runners.
A plethora of local talent has also been added to the Runners’ roster, which include UNM soccer alum, Josh Goss, former Cleveland High School goalkeeper, Dominic Valenzuela, former Volcano Vista midfield/forward, Sergio Fuentes, former Del Norte midfield/defender, Luis Martinez, former Highland midfield/forward, Hector Calderon, and former Eldorado standout, Isaiah Madrid.
Madrid is another well-traveled player who has played soccer for numerous teams, first playing for Eldorado in high school, and then in college for Florida Gulf Coast and Valparaiso. “We’re gonna have a really good team. There’s a lot of local talent, (like) some kids that I played with growing up,” Madrid said. “I know that this is gonna be the first time that some of us have played professional indoor (soccer), it’s different. So I think that’ll be kind of a learning curve for us, but if we can adapt to that, I think we’ll be very solid.”
Adding the local talent has been a big part of what the Runners are looking to base the franchise on. “(The team) is a great group of young men,” added Famiglietta.
Now to the biggest question about this upcoming season. What’s different about arena soccer compared to outdoor soccer?
In arena soccer, the game is played in four, 15-minute quarters, instead of two, 45-minute, halves. There are three minutes in between first and second, and third and fourth quarters, along with a 15-minute halftime after the second quarter. The arena is enclosed like a hockey rink, with plexiglass surrounding the 200 foot long rounded field.
“Arena soccer has a faster pace of play. There are no offsides, there’s free substitution meaning players come in and out as they need to,” mentioned Trujillo about the rules. In typical soccer, game-play has to be stopped for a substitution to be made.
Another unique facet of the game of arena soccer is the fact that there is a “power play” that takes effect, just like in a hockey game. A power play is when a team has an advantage of members on the field contrary to the opposing side. “Arena soccer has a lot of hockey elements which keeps the flow of the game moving,” Trujillo added.
Trujillo, who was an arena soccer player himself when he was younger, is very excited to embark on this new journey, especially with his family by his side as his business partners. “My family really just rallies behind whatever I do,” he said. “They follow my lead and put their efforts into what tasks they are assigned. I want this to be about my family and I want to build a family legacy in our community.”
On Monday, November 5th, the Runners’ schedule was released, ending the anticipation of when the Runners will officially make their debut. They will open up their season with a pre-season exhibition match against Colorado Inferno FC on December 1st at the Santa Ana Star Center, followed by officially opening their season on December 15th at the Star Center against the Santa Fe Elite. “It’s kind of a cool concept to have sort of an in-state rival,” Trujillo said about their fellow New Mexico competitors.
If you’re ready to go see the Runners in action, tickets are on sale and can be found at the team’s website, which is newmexicorunners.com.