Alex Touche can legitimately say playing for New Mexico United was a long-term goal.
Granted, United’s franchise history amounts to just two seasons. And yes, Touche was rather busy during that span, studying and playing Ivy League soccer at Penn.
But Touche, an Albuquerque Academy graduate who officially signed with United on Tuesday, pictured himself playing for the hometown side even before its first USL Championship match.
“I was interning at New Mexico United when it all started,” Touche said in a Zoom media conference Tuesday. “I got to meet Coach (Troy) Lesesne and was able to do some training with the team. So when I decided not to play a fifth season at Penn, this was a natural fit.”
There’s certainly a comfort level involved. Touche and his twin brother, Charles, became fixtures on the local soccer scene after relocating to Albuquerque from their native London as 9-year-olds. They helped Rio Rapids SC win state championships in 2014 and ’15 and won back-to-back state titles at Academy in 2015 and ’16. They also played for Albuquerque Sol in the USL League 2.
But Alex conceded he’s been a New Mexico United fan since the club’s inception, watching matches and imagining himself competing in front of his hometown fans – one in particular.
“My family’s super excited to have me home,” he said. “My grandma is my biggest fan, so after we get her vaccinated and everything, it’ll be great to have her in the stands at Isotopes Park.”
Alex Touche has established himself as an elite defender, playing primarily at center back during his career. He was first-team All-Ivy League in his final two seasons at Penn (the Quakers did not compete in 2020 because of coronavirus concerns) and was named Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.
But Touche also has the ability to finish and capitalize on his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. He scored eight goals at Penn, four of them match-winners.
“I do like set pieces,” Touche said with a smile.’
He enjoys defense as well and looks forward to working with United’s returning center back, Kalen Ryden, who earned all-league honors and was NMU’s defensive player of the year in 2020.
Lesesne said Touche’s aptitude for the game was part of the reason he pursued the former intern.
“We had him in to training that first season,” Lesesne said, “and he was able to take in so much so quickly. It was impressive. Of course, Alex attended the Wharton School of Business, so he’s miles ahead of the rest of us. He’s super intelligent.”
Touche is the fifth new player to sign this offseason and will join former club rival and Sol teammate Sergio Rivas on the 2021 United roster. Touche’s brother, Charles, plays men’s soccer at Cornell.