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Sol tumbles in season finale, finishes 2-10-2

A familiar theme played out Saturday as the Albuquerque Sol wrapped up its season.

The Sol conceded a pair of goals in second-half stoppage time, falling to FC Boulder 3-1 in front of an announced crowd of 1,264 at St. Pius High School in the team’s season finale.

It was the third time this season the Sol (2-10-2) had apparent draws turn into losses on nearly the last kick of the match.

“I don’t think a two-win season represents our caliber of play,” Sol captain Pat Pacheco said. “It’s unreal what changes I’ve seen from year one to year four. The support from the community grows every year.”

The Sol, which also lost 4-2 to FC Boulder on Thursday night, finishes the season with eight points and a minus-15 goal differential (17 scored, 32 against) for last place in the Mountain Division of the Premier Development League.

Seven of its eight points on the season came in three matches with Colorado Rapids U23.

An analysis of the average points and goals for the top teams in the 10 divisions of the PDL accentuates the gap between the Sol and the elite of the league. Entering Saturday’s games, the first- and second-place teams in the league’s 10 divisions averaged 29.5 points and a plus-18.2 goal differential (31.7 scored and 13.6 conceded).

“It’s been a real successful in a lot of ways,” Sol manager Matt Gordon said. “It’s easy to look at results and standings, but we’ve had a lot of success in the training environment and a different caliber player we brought in. The front office has done a great job off the field as well. Hopefully 2017 brought some excitement to fans.”

Sol players in college will immediately return to campuses in preparation for the upcoming NCAA season. The Sol front office, meanwhile, is now a year-round responsibility according to Sol general manager Larry Espinoza. The immediate priority for the organization, according to Espinoza, is soliciting player feedback via anonymous surveys to improve the Sol’s process.

The player survey and positional needs influence how the club crafts its 2018 roster.

“We do a good job networking across the state as well as nationally and internationally,” Gordon said. “We want local guys to do well and hopefully they can find a place to be here.”

Espinoza estimated a surge of 10 to 15 percent in average attendance this season.

“So long as we continue to develop our culture, we’ll continue to have success with our players,” Espinoza said. “Our fan base has grown substantially and we’re starting to develop a following. Because of this our impact into the community starts becoming greater.”

FAN CLUB: Before the match, the Sandianistas, the Sol’s fan club, gave New Mexico Lobo Sam Gleadle the “Supporter’s Choice” Award for 2017.

Jeff Phillips from the Sandianistas said 43 votes for 18 players were cast via social media and with electors ranking their top three choices.

RESPONDERS CUP: The Sol held its inaugural First Responders Cup prior to the Sol game.

An estimated 400 fans watched the Albuquerque Fire Department defeat the Albuquerque Police Department in a friendly soccer match.

The victorious AFD side claimed New Mexico Strong T-shirts as its bounty. The Sol and corporate partners also made a donation to the Ten-82 fund to support New Mexico first responders and military personnel.