The fourth season for the New Mexico Runners indoor soccer team, which calls the Rio Rancho Events Center home, got off on the right foot — maybe the left foot, too — in a 7-1 opening-night victory over the Kansas Bandits in Dodge City, Kan., on Dec. 18.
On Saturday, Jan. 7, in a 2:05 p.m. kickoff, the Runners entertain the Amarillo Bombers (2-0) in a Major Arena Soccer League 2 contest.
It’s “Rio Rancho Community Day” and all Rio Rancho residents will be admitted free, if they show proof of residence (school IDs for youngsters).
Runners team owner Andres Trujillo says he’s expecting a fair-sized crowd.
The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce will have a networking event in the arena’s concourse from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Saturday, Trujillo, said, and the Roadrunner Brass Band will perform at halftime.
Although there may be questions of “Who are these Runners?” lingering, because historically teams have come and gone in a matter of only a few years, Trujillo says, “I think people now understand we’re here — a team that doesn’t plan on going anywhere.
“People know our brand now,” he said, and certainly most of the kids know who Rio, the team mascot, is when they see it. He’s heard from fans who have told him, “They’re so fun,” which he enjoys hearing, as he’s proud of being a New Mexican owning and running a team.
The team has partnered with Roadrunner Food Bank, with players doing volunteer work there, and the team donating $10 from every Runners jersey sold to the local food bank, which equates to about 50 meals for the homeless and indigent.
In another example of community involvement, Trujillo said players will visit Rio Rancho schools, reading to students, doing exhibitions, etc.
Steve Famiglietta returns as head coach; he’s assisted by his son Nick. Steve is a longtime area resident who played soccer at Cibola High before a pro career; he’s an inductee of the USL Hall of Fame as well as the Cibola High School Sports Hall of Fame.
There are 19 players on this season’s roster, and Trujillo said four of them are originals, from the 2019-20 season: Mario Matute; Miguel Garcia, a Cleveland High alum and Rio Rancho firefighter; Luis Martinez, a Del Norte High alum; and Sergio Fuentes, who played at Volcano Vista.
Among the dozen returnees from last season is another local, former Rio Rancho High School goalkeeper Nate Yeager.
Also back — thankfully, Trujillo will tell you — is Sandia High grad (Class of 2018) Mehrshad Ahmadi, a third-team all-star last season and a five-goal scorer in the win over Kansas. He played in just seven games last season, but scored 21 points on 18 goals and three assists.
Trujillo thinks last year’s World Cup may lead to increased attendance this season, and it certainly led to interest in being a part of the team, as about two-dozen men tried out for roster spots.
The league has grown from 12 to 15 teams this season, and Trujillo said it’s possible Santa Fe may have an entrant in the future.
More special home games, each with a 5:05 p.m. start, loom for the Runners:
• Jan. 21 (vs. Colorado Inferno): Youth Soccer Night, with youth club soccer players admitted free when wearing team jersey.
• Feb. 11 (vs. Kansas Bandits): Educators Night, with teachers admitted free with school ID.
• Feb. 25 (vs. Wichita Wings): Faith and Family Night, with discounted group tickets for religious groups.
• March 4 (vs. Colorado Inferno): Trujillo is still working out details for this night, expected to attract plumbers, HVAC workers, etc.
• March 18 (vs. Kansas Bandits): Scout Night, with the first 500 scouts receiving Runners patches.
For more information, including the rules of indoor soccer as played here, visit the team’s website at newmexicorunners.com.