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United, defender Ryden decide they want to stay together

New Mexico United’s Kalen Ryden acknowledges fans at a May match against Austin Bold FC at Isotopes Park. (Courtesy of NM United)

Kalen Ryden had to wait more than a year for his first New Mexico United home match.

Wednesday he signed on for quite a few more.

United announced that Ryden, last season’s USL Championship Defender of the Year and a 2021 team co-captain, has signed a contract extension through the end of the 2023 season. It is the first midseason contract extension in the club’s three-year history.

The 30-year-old defender and anchor of New Mexico’s back line has started every match since his arrival in 2020, and in that span leads NMU in clearances (96), blocks (22), duels won (97) and aerial duels won (65).

“Re-signing here in New Mexico was the easiest decision of my career,” Ryden said, per a club press release. “I have so much respect and love for this organization and community. There is a lot happening behind the scenes that goes into an individual player’s career, and … (my) wife and I have felt so welcomed since we joined the club and we both are delighted to continue our journey in Albuquerque.”

Financial terms of the contract were not released, but compensation is guaranteed for the length of the deal provided its terms are not violated. If an opportunity for Ryden to play professionally at a higher level presented itself, the interested team or league would have to come through United, and those situations would be explored “on an individual basis,” a United spokesperson said.

Ryden has quickly become a fan favorite despite enduring a long wait before his home debut. United played exclusively on the road in 2020, Ryden’s first season with the team, because of New Mexico’s coronavirus restrictions.

“Now that I’ve gotten a taste of our home games, I am thrilled to call the Lab my home,” Ryden said. “We truly have the best fans in this country.”

United hosts Austin Bold FC on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Isotopes Park.

AVAILABLE FOR ACTION: United made two of its academy players eligible for first-team duty this week, signing former Albuquerque High standouts Cristian Nava and Andres Robles to academy contracts. Both will continue to play with NMU’s academy team with all of their equipment, travel and training costs scholarshipped, but the academy contracts make them available for selection for first-team matches.

Nava and Robles are the third and fourth players signed to New Mexico United academy contracts, joining their former Albuquerque High teammate Armando Muñoz-Zarate and former Los Alamos High standout Aiden Semelsberger.

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