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Soccer players trying out for the Albuquerque Sol were starting from the ground up, which proved challenging given the rough field conditions at Balloon Fiesta Park this weekend.
This soccer field is a parking lot during October for Balloon Fiesta.
The field was more dry, yellow straw than grass, and the patchy surface played to mixed results.
The expansion Albuquerque Sol Damas, a women’s team, unearthed a solid nucleus over a two-day tryout. But the Sol scrapped the Sunday men’s callback after a disappointing Saturday.
“We had a lot of players; the quantity was good, the quality wasn’t as good as it was last year,” Sol technical director Justin Sells said. “I still think there are 10-15 guys who can add to the group.”
The Sol may schedule another men’s tryout session with more notice concurrent with college spring break.
“I just wasn’t really happy with the actual technical ability,” Sol president Larry Espinoza said. “Technically it wasn’t what we were looking for.”
Several Sol alums were unavailable, given their commitments to the New Mexico Runners and Santa Fe Elite indoor teams.
Sells is hoping to bring back “60 to 70 percent” of his players from 2018. That squad posted a 4-6-4 record, its 16 points second-best in club history.
“I’m not going to change much, again have that local group,” Sells said. “I see the Sol as local; it should be based on the local community.”
The Sol men will carry 22-26 players on its roster and dress 18 for games. The Sol Damas will be rostering fewer players given its shorter season.
Sells is hoping to finalize head coaching positions by March.
The club has talked to Elliot Prost about the Sol men. Prost is the technical director for the North Denver Rush Soccer Club and played for the Sol in its third season.
The Sol men will play the same level but relabeled as USL League 2. They’ll play 12 (instead of 14) games in a smaller Mountain Division against two Utah clubs, Ogden City FC and Park City FC, and the Colorado Pride Switchbacks.
“From a budget standpoint it makes it a little more difficult because we have to travel Utah twice,” Espinoza said. “The league has assured us they are working on bolstering the Mountain Division.”
The Sol are exploring new home venues including Sandia Prep or Milne Stadium.
The Sol Damas will play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. The Damas will play an eight-game regular season against teams from Arizona and Nevada. The top two teams in the division will advance to a regional playoff.
“The women overall was good quality, a good contingent of former Lobos,” Sells said. “We can put together a good women’s team.”
Sol associate technical director Dave Sullivan said the tryouts tested mental and physical fitness engineering drills to strain ball decision making.
“Our core is going to be strong,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to have a lot of dangerous players on the field and if we play up to our potential, we can make some noise.”
Volcano Vista graduate Claire Lynch played at UNM from 2014-2017.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the talent I’ve seen,” Lynch said. “This is an awesome opportunity to play for a team in New Mexico.”
The diminutive and dynamic Lynch figures to be an important attacking force for the Sol. She noted the value this new team will have for college players.
“When I played college soccer, girls went out of state,” Lynch said. “The girls that had these kinds of opportunities, they came back a little more precise, got their touch back sooner than I did.”
Another ex-Lobo and Volcano Vista alum. Alyssa Goss (formerly Coonrod) is grateful the Sol will keep her connected to soccer.
“It’s so fun to relive the glory days, soccer is such a fun sport that never really left me,” Goss said. “It’s good for the community and good to represent Albuquerque.”
The Sol Damas will train a local group a couple times a week in March, adding college players in May.