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United fans thrilled, from afar, to see team score

Kelly Umezu arrived at the Civic Center with his family for the New Mexico United watch party two hours before the Umezus’ favorite soccer team played on the big screen against rival El Paso on Saturday night.

Last week, he said, there was a mixup with his tickets for a reserved pod and he wasn’t able to secure a spot, so instead this week, the United gave him four pods.

The Umezu family, and three other families who have children that play for the Pateadores NM soccer club, joined about 450 others who cheered for the United’s first goal of the season. Everyone erupted after Devon Sandoval’s goal in the 57th minute. El Paso later scored in the final moments of the match for a 1-1 tie.

It was OK. Umezu was already happy before the game. He gained attention with his black T-shirt with yellow lettering that read: NEW MEXICO VS EVERYBODY.

“With our kids we use this as a bonding moment,” Umezu said. “They love watching soccer. That’s all they do. I have holes in my walls at home because the kids are kicking the balls against the wall. Something like this is great, just being out. Not at home.”

The pods, or selected areas, are required at this time to maintain social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each pod/area has a maximum of six people. Once at the pod, hardly anyone wore masks.

Kelly Hernandez, a United season-ticket holder, said she is excited for next Saturday’s home opener against Austin Bold FC at Isotopes Park. Hernandez and her friends arrived nearly three hours before the game and brought tacos for a makeshift tailgating party. They also played cornhole near their pod.

“I love everything about the United, the wild and crazy atmosphere,” Hernandez said. “We love soccer and we’re very excited to have our team.”

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