With his trademark dreadlocks and physical on-the-pitch presence, Devon Sandoval has been the face of New Mexico United since day one.
It’s fair to say the USL Championship expansion club hit a home run by making Sandoval its first-ever signing in 2018. The former Eldorado High School and University of New Mexico standout brought instant credibility (77 MLS appearances) and strong local ties to United’s roster.
Sandoval wasted no time establishing himself as a go-to striker, helping to lead the team to postseason berths in each of its first two seasons. He’s a co-captain this year and already has logged NMU’s lone goal in a 1-1 draw at El Paso and an assist on Daniel Bruce’s clincher in Friday’s 3-1 win at Colorado Springs.
Married and a father of two, Sandoval is frequently seen hoisting his daughter, Lyanna, into his arms after matches. He has become a favorite of United’s passionate fans and, with family and parents living in Albuquerque, the 29-year-old is fully invested in a franchise that he admits has exceeded his expectations.
QUESTION: Soccer’s such a huge part of your identity. How did this start for you?
ANSWER: “I’ve been playing my whole life. I think I was 3 when I was on my first team and my dad (Greg) was my coach. He played a bit in club and high school and loved it. He got me started.”
Q: Did you play other sports growing up?
A: “Yeah, I really like tennis and I played in high school, but it’s mostly been soccer for me.”
Q: First player signed by United and a captain this year, you’re very much the face of the franchise. How do you feel about that?
A: “It’s an honor to be a captain of a team with such great leadership and fan support. When I first signed here, my expectations were pretty low, but I couldn’t be happier with the impact this club has made. Being recognized as part of that is cool. The most important thing is to have an impact on the field and in the community.”
Q: Obviously, the dreadlocks make you even more recognizable. How long have you had them?
A: “Since I got married, January 2017, so four years now.”
Q: Your idea or your wife’s?
A: “(Laughs) It was my idea.”
Q: What goes into maintaining that look?
A: “Not a lot of maintenance. Wash them, dry them — got to make sure I dry them really good because if you don’t, that’s when not-so-good things happen.”
Q: Between high school, college and your pro career, you’ve scored a lot of goals. Does any one stand out in your mind?
A: “Wow, that’s tough. I liked the goal I scored against Phoenix at home (a sliding left-footer in 2019). It was like the 2nd or 3rd minute of the game, put it in the upper third, that was a nice one.”
Q: You also scored United’s first-ever goal (March 9, 2019) versus Fresno FC). Where does that one rank?
A: “(Smiles) Pretty high. That was one to remember, definitely.”
at a glance
Married to Cristin Sandoval, daughter Lyanna (age 3) and son Nyjah (1 month)
Favorite sports team: New Mexico United
Favorite athlete: Roger Federer
Favorite TV show: “I don’t have time to watch these days.”
Favorite musical artist: Landon McNamara
Red or green chile? “Christmas! As long as it’s chile, I’m happy.”
Saturday: Loudoun United at NM United,
7:30 p.m., 101.7 FM/ESPN+ (streaming)