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Sun sets on Sol season

The sun set on the Albuquerque Sol’s fifth Premier Development League season on Saturday night with a 4-1 loss to Ogden SC at UNM Stadium.

The Sol (4-6-4) finished with its second-best season in its five-year history. Only the eight wins and 27 points from the 2015 Sol was better.

The Sol claimed an early lead through Noe Mezza’s breakaway chip but Luis Vargas provided all the offense Ogden SC (3-8-3) required with two first-half goals. He also had a second-half assist.

The 2018 Premier Development League season marked a new era for the Albuquerque Sol. The club hired new coach Justin Sells and recommitted to fielding a team of local players.

“My whole goal was, can we be in a better spot? And I think we’re in a better spot,” Sells said. “It’s a step in the right direction compared to where we were last year, it’s definitely where we want to be heading.”

The four wins this year and third-place finish was a welcome result after consecutive seasons finishing in the cellar. The Sol finished with 16 points, just ahead of their five-year average of 15.4.

The team set club records for goals scored (25) and goals allowed (38). Both totals were well above previous season averages: just under 15 goals scored and nearly 21 goals against.

Former Lobo Luke Lawrence score a team-high eight goals this season. Lawrence praised high intensity training sessions and team consistency.

“It’s a lot about working hard, working for each other,” Lawrence said. “Sells kept pushing us, that’s what led to more success.”

The high scoring affairs provided good theater, but late game defensive struggles saw the Sol drop points against the top two teams in the Mountain Division.

The Sol held a team celebration on Friday night and handed out player awards. Lawrence took home the “most improved award” while Isaiah Madrid won the “iron man” and defender Edgar Davila the MVP.

FANS IN THE STANDS: The Sandianistas are the self-described “independent supporters” for the Sol, Lobo soccer, and the expansion USL New Mexico club. They provide cacophonous spirit at Sol games with incantations, drums, and colorful smoke flares.

At halftime, the group presented its “supporter’s choice” award based on fan balloting. This year’s recipient was Sol veteran Pat Pacheco.

“The supporter’s choice is not just an MVP, it’s about the player who engages with supporters, who reflects the team’s values,” Sandianista founding father Andrew Bolte said. “It’s what (Pat’s) done for five seasons. He’s been interwoven with the club since the beginning.”

KELLER: Mayor Tim Keller strolled into UNM stadium clad in an Albuquerque Sol scarf wearing a custom No. 15 “Keller” Black Sol jersey. Keller did the coin toss and reaffirmed his support for Albuquerque soccer despite being cut from the St. Pius team when he was in high school. Sol GM Larry Espinoza played with Keller’s brother.

“This is a great soccer city and we are grateful the Sol has led the charge for professional soccer in New Mexico,” Keller said. “As Mayor, I want to not only fix our challenges but champion things we’re already best at.”

Keller also helped the club honor APD officer Stephanie Cockerill.

Cockerill is the club’s inaugural “hometown hero” — part of a partnership the Sol forged with Alaska Airlines.

A member of the 119th cadet class, Cockerill helped apprehend a suspect with a felony homicide warrant her first night in the field. Just three days later she dove into a flooded arroyo to save a woman who was attempting suicide.

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