Bundled in down jackets and swaddled in blankets, thousands of fans watched their beloved United soccer team kick into high gear, put up a good fight, and then lose its first playoff game.
The crowd started gathering at Civic Plaza in Downtown Albuquerque about 30 minutes before Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. kickoff. Families pulled wagons overflowing with children, blankets and snacks into the plaza and set up camp in front of a jumbo-sized screen.
Thirteen seconds into the game, United scored their only goal against Sacramento Republic FC, leaving the enchanted fans a little disappointed.
“It is what it is,” Robbie Lopez, a new recruit to the soccer fandom said. “You win and you lose, but it was a good game.”
Before United sprung up in Albuquerque, he wasn’t much of a soccer fan, but now Lopez said he won’t miss a game.
“I’m buying season tickets next year,” he said.
The seemingly small audience of around 300 people roared with the spirit of a thousand as they watched their treasured players ping-pong back and forth across the field. They were confident the team would bag a win, but when that proved to be false hope, still boasted their support.
“We still love them and it won’t stop no matter what,” super fan Carlos Tenorio said. He was decked out in team merchandise, a red and gold sombrero, and wore a New Mexico flag like a cape.
“We just got to get ready for next year,” he said. “One loss doesn’t define who you are as a team or as a fan base.”
Denise Nava, who had been to a couple other watch parties at Civic Plaza, said the team did more for the city than most people expected it to.
“United has literally done what it’s name is, it’s really brought Albuquerque together in a whole other way that we haven’t seen before,” she said.
At the blow of the final whistle, which marked the end of United’s league play, the crowd let out one last hurrah before quickly packing up their camping chairs and blankets and calling it a night. “We love you, we love you, we love you,” they chanted, “and where you go we’ll follow, we’ll follow, ‘cause we support United, United…”