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Starzynski makes ‘painful’ decision to resign as AHS soccer coach

Albuquerque High boys soccer head coach Lucien Starzynski, shown at a 2014 game, is leaving behind his powerhouse high school team to join New Mexico United as a scout for Academy talent. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The Lucien Starzynski era at Albuquerque High is coming to an end.

On the same day New Mexico United announced he will be the head scout for their Academy, Starzynski — regarded by some as New Mexico’s best prep coach — told the Journal that this would be his final season coaching the heralded AHS boys soccer program.

Starzynski, 43, informed his team prior to the Bulldogs’ 10-0 nondistrict victory at Del Norte on Wednesday afternoon. He will coach the remainder of this spring season, which culminates with the Class 5A championship game on April 10.

Then he belongs to United.

“To say this is painful — to leave this school I played at for four years and coached at for 17 years … to say it’s painful is an understatement,” Starzynski said in a tear-filled interview after the game. “This team, this school, this Albuquerque High community has truly been in my heart for decades.”

The Bulldogs were state champions in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and also reached the finals in 2014 and 2016. Already this year, AHS has had four of its top players leave the Bulldogs to join the New Mexico United Academy squad.

He will be scouting players in every corner of the state for NMU, “helping build the player pool for the Academy,” he said.

“Right now, I know it’s the right decision to make,” Starzynski said. “I think it’s a great opportunity with New Mexico United, and it’s an opportunity to help New Mexico kids in a different capacity, and I’m excited for that.”

Starzynski’s official title will be Head Academy Scout. “For my entire adult life, my heart and passion have been working with young players in my community through the game,” Starzynski said in United’s press release.

Starzynski has coached soccer at several levels: high school, club and the Olympic Development Program.

He actually has served as head coach at his alma mater twice. He served in that capacity at Albuquerque High from 1999-2002, which was his first coaching job.

Then after spending some time in Europe, he returned to his roots, re-joining Albuquerque High in 2008, making this his 13th season since he came back. He has deep reverence for everything AHS, where boys soccer has become the school’s most accomplished sport over the last decade.

Might he someday consider stepping back into a high school coaching role?

“The great thing about how I approach my life,” he told the Journal, “is I just take these moments when they come and embrace it. The door is always open for whatever path it leads to. Down the road, do I come back into the high school game? Sure, possibly.”

In recent years, AHS has bloomed into an unequivocal power, with one of New Mexico’s deepest rosters of talent, and one of the state’s most passionate fan bases.

“When you coach at Albuquerque High, it’s not just coaching soccer. You are truly a part of the community,” Starzynski told the Journal in a September 2014 profile. “It goes beyond soccer. That’s why it’s so gratifying.”

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