It was a rough start to the 2017 season for the Albuquerque Sol courtesy of rival FC Tucson on May 20. The Sol was not just outplayed in a 4-2 loss at St. Pius High School, it was also bullied and bloodied by FC Tucson.
Sol defender Kareem Salem suffered a forehead laceration minutes into the match on a contested header. Later, FC Tucson launched a two-footed challenge on the Sol’s Yuri Domiciano, chopping down the midfielder. A scrum naturally ensued and relations have not improved since.
The aggregate total score of four meetings between the teams determines which side claims the “Golden Rattler” rivalry trophy. The clubs meet twice in two days starting this weekend. The first matchup is at the University of New Mexico Track and Soccer Stadium Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
“Tucson is the best team we will face all season, they’ve got a lot of quality and we fully respect that,” Sol manager Matt Gordon said. “If we can keep the ball for extended periods of time that will frustrate them. We’ve been very cautious in possession. We want to be the aggressor with the ball.”
Last Saturday in Tucson, the Sol lost 3-1. Only some sterling goalkeeping by the Sol’s Jason Beaulieu and a stoppage time goal from Tommy Ramos kept the final score respectable.
“Our focus this week is don’t be the guy who messes up, we’ve given them the games in a lot of ways,” Gordon said. “We want to play on our terms, dictating the game. We want to play through the lines of the field, through the midfield group to get to the final third through various different avenues.”
FC Tucson (6-2-1) tops the standings in the Mountain Division with 19 points. The club has a plus-12 goal differential, with 22 goals for and 10 against. The Sol (2-5-1) has seven points in eight matches. The Sol has 10 goals and yielded 15.
During tonight’s match the Sol will honor the memory of former UNM soccer player Pat Grange, who died at age 28 from ALS. The Sol retired Grange’s college jersey number (4).
READY FOR PRIME TIME: Without regular television exposure the Sol has used social media platforms to stream games free online.
But for the first time in four seasons the Sol will be broadcast live on local television on My50 TV (KASY, whose operations are run by the KRQE Media Group).
“Soccer isn’t just a game, it’s a culture, a lifestyle, a movement that has the ability to unite people,” Patel said on the Albuquerque Sol website. “ALS Night is always my favorite night of the year, where we get to honor Pat and bring the entire community together.”
Patel hopes the entire 2018 home slate will air on broadcast television. KRQE Vice President and General Manager Brian Anderson said his network is a logical television home given its flexible scheduling and history of showing local sports.
“This broadcast is an attempt to show support for the Sol as a local sports team,” Anderson said in an email. “For now, this first game (is) just to test viewer interest, but to be truly sustainable we will have to create advertiser interest too.”
Tucson FC vs. Albuquerque Sol at UNM Track and Soccer Stadium
7 p.m., My50 TV
Tickets: tickets.abqsolfc.com or at the gate