Being so close to the action made a lot of Runners fans happy in the season finale March 18 at the Events Center.If they were any closer, they’d be in the game.



When a team wins its first three games, its players, coach and fans keep hoping for more.

An undefeated season? A .500 season? Postseason play?

For the New Mexico Runners in their fourth season of Major Arena Soccer League (MASL2) competition, it was no, no and no.

Those early victories were followed by four straight losses, the first two back-to-back losses when their opponent scored 21 goals, and then a tie, which the Runners lost in overtime.

Following that came three more losses, giving the Runners (4-8) their last chance to salvage a victory on March 18 on their home pitch, inside the Rio Rancho Events Center.

It was Scout Night, and the enthusiastic crowd went home happy.

Team owner Andres Trujillo wants it to be that way – win or lose.

For Trujillo, proud of his New Mexican heritage and success with his Rio Rancho team, which has the “record” for longest stint as anchor tenant in the Events Center, previously known as Santa Ana Star Center.

The New Mexico Scorpions – the arena’s original anchor tenant (2006-09) lasted three seasons. Other pro sports teams have come and gone after a season or two, with the Duke City Gladiators now in their third season in the building.

Trujillo said he wanted to “change the mentality of that place.”

Trujillo knew what he was doing before the Runners played their first game: “My business plan was finalized in December 2017,” he recalled, with the official announcement of the team starting up coming six months later – at the Star Center, attended by Mayor Gregg Hull, long a supporter.

“The fourth season was a very rollercoasteresque type of season,” Trujillo said.

The rollercoaster was headed up with the three-game winning streak, then quickly headed down.

“Guys were meshing, the chemistry was good, the physicality was great – we were competing — and then you’re climbing the high, and then injuries hit,” Trujillo said. “Injury after injury with key guys; cataclysmic injuries with key guys kinda took us out. … Our guys had a hard time figuring out what to do with the key guys that were injured.

“I think this is the first season we had so many injuries, a domino effect,” he added. “The most injuries were leg injuries: knees, hamstrings. Nick Famiglietta tore his ACL and meniscus; he just had surgery and he’s on the mend.”

What happened after that great start?

Famiglietta, a coach with a calm demeanor and quick with a smile, said the main reason for the skid was, “not sticking to the basics.

“You’ve got to prove it on the field,” he said. “A lot of excuses? I’m not an excuse guy. I realize everyone’s dealing with health issues, injury issues. Our issue’s always lean – that’s the market … even now, it’s pretty lean.”

Famiglietta said he’s expecting to be back on the bench when the 2023-24 season begins in December, “unless someone up the food chain makes me a really good offer. I love this team; I love being here. I certainly expect to be back.”

League scoring leader Ahmadi, a Sandia High grad, can be even better next season, Famiglietta said.

“There’s a lot of goals there, but trust me, a little more instruction, he’ll score twice that amount,” Famiglietta said, admitting No. 49’s defensive work can improve.

Despite Ahmadi’s 38 goals, the coach said, “Last year, we picked up Vince Aragon (a St. Pius X grad),” who was second only to Ahmadi in scoring this season, with 18 goals.

“He started to come through toward the end of the season, but this year – for me, if I had to pick an MVP – he’s our team MVP: offense, defense, everything. He doesn’t quit, he doesn’t stop, He had a great season. He leads by example (with) a great attitude all the time.”

It ends with a W

In that March 18 contest, which was tied early at 1 and 2, the Runners never trailed, using a three-goal flurry in 44 seconds of the third period to pull away from a 6-5 lead to a 9-5 advantage, and held on for a 10-9 victory over the Kansas Bandits, the team the Runners beat to start the season.

Mehrshad Amahdi, always counted on for at least two goals per game, had a hat trick and Austin Snyder and Josh Garcia each netted two for the Runners (4-8).

Hector Castaneda got the start in goal, with Nate Yeager playing the entire second half, and they combined for nine saves on 21 Bandit shots.

Trujillo was happy to point out that the team averaged about 1,000 fans per game, after an estimated 800 in the 2021-22 season.

“It shows me people now know what our brand is all about. The Runners are fun, they’re entertaining; it’s a great family event to take everyone to.

“They’re behind it because they’re never bored,” he added. “People didn’t want to leave their seats. … I would make my way to the front (of the Events Center) toward the end of the game. And nobody was leaving; everyone wanted to see what the result was.”

He’s happiest when he sees fans exiting the Events Center with a smile, knowing in his heart of hearts he’s “making Rio Rancho special.”

The New Mexico Runners, he emphasized, are “Rio Rancho’s sports team.”

Season 4 a year of firsts and career milestones

  • In his second year in the league, Mehrshad Ahmadi’s goal production skyrocketed;
  • Head coach Steve Famiglietta, who saw action in five games, scored a goal in a professional game for the first time in 26 years; and
  • The Runners got off to their best start in franchise history, finishing a franchise best third in the Midwest Division behind Wichita and Amarillo, teams the Runners beat during their season-opening three-game winning streak.

What team owner does this?

Not long after his team’s final game, Trujillo posted a 576-word letter of gratefulness on Facebook.

Trujillo wrote about how proud he was of his team, “one big family … (an) awesome group of guys.

“To each and every one of our players, thank you for the sacrifice, dedication and hard work! You’ve made such a huge positive impact in our community and fans will always remember your inspiration. You’re a part of the bigger picture and that’s creating a positive quality of life our community pines for. So, thank you for giving our community hope and something to be proud of!”

He also thanked basically everyone connected with staging games in the Events Center, his family, photographers and videographers, the team’s sponsors/partners and Mayor Gregg Hull and Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block for their unwavering support “since day 1,” but “most of all, thank you to our fans! Our philosophy has always been and will be ‘It’s all about the fans!’

Hull was at the season finale with a few words for the fans, asking for them to applaud the team and Trujillo’s efforts to keep this team at the Events Center.

Already looking ahead to year 5, season tickets are on sale online at

“It’s not about me – ever. … I’m a servant of the community,” Trujillo explained. “I want to provide a platform, a pathway, an inspiration — a beacon of hope for our community to get behind – especially with a lot of the negative things we go through nowadays; it’s tough to find the silver lining.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey,” Trujillo said. “I feel like every season it’s like scaling Mt. Everest; we get to the summit, and the next season, it’s scaling Mt. Everest again.”