Q&A with United's 'father of the team' - and can Suggs break out another backflip? - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A with United’s ‘father of the team’ — and can Suggs break out another backflip?

United’s Josh Suggs raises his hands into the air towards the fans after scoring in the first half of a game in 2021. (Jim Thompson /Journal)

Josh Suggs has seen and done more on a soccer pitch than any of his New Mexico United teammates.

In fact, Suggs is on the brink of playing more minutes than anyone in USL Championship history. The veteran defender and Las Cruces native has logged 19,918 minutes in the league, second only to longtime Charleston Battery defender Taylor Mueller (20,077 minutes), who retired in 2021.

Suggs, who celebrated his 34th birthday this month, is a poster boy for longevity and sees it as a badge of honor. He ranks third in USLC history with 246 appearances (96 of them with United) and readily admits he wants to see his name atop the league’s records for minutes and appearances before he’s through.

But make no mistake, Suggs does not play like a man nearing the end of his soccer journey. The former Cal Poly Humboldt Lumberjack brings unrivaled intensity to every match and does his best to fire up New Mexico’s fan base – even if it means performing an impromptu backflip.

Suggs is not sure if there are more backflips in his future, but he did spell out his aspirations for the season during a quick Q&A with the Journal.

You’re closing in on the USL Championship record for minutes played. How does that feel to you?

Suggs: “It feels like it crept up on me. It’s pretty incredible. I think one of the main reasons I wanted to come back this year was to break the record. I probably should’ve had it last year if it weren’t for all the injuries. I’m definitely aware of it, but it also caught me off guard when they told me I was second in 2021 and I had 17,000 minutes. I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know I had that many.’ Now that I know I’m up there, I want the record and to extend it as far as I can.”

Foot and hamstring injuries really limited your playing time last season. How difficult was that for you?

Suggs: “I think 2022 was one of the most trying years of my life. I haven’t had to deal with a lot of injuries in my career and it seemed like I just couldn’t catch a break. I played in 15 games last year, and in years past it was so normal for me to play every minute of every game. To not be that guy was very difficult, especially being the captain of the team and having to watch our club struggle in some games without me. It was brutal.”

At this point you’re kind of the elder statesman of this group. Do you see taking the younger guys under your wing as part of your role?

Suggs: (Laughs) “There’s no doubt about it, I’m definitely the father of the team. I think my biggest role within this club now is to set the example for what a professional should be and what the standard is for this club, especially for the younger players. It’s so special for me because in a way they do feel like my kids. I look at (Alex) Waggoner and Cristian Nava and those guys are New Mexicans and they have opportunities that I never had as a kid. When I see them being successful within the environment we’ve created here, that’s extremely special for me.”

Having been at this for a while, what’s your assessment of this season’s team?

Suggs: “I think it’s a special group. It’s hard because every year you look at the team around you and think, ‘this is going to be the one.’ But I really do think we have a special group of players and we can go very far.”

You grabbed everyone’s attention by doing a backflip to celebrate a goal in 2021? Do you have another one in you if you score a goal at home?

Suggs: (Laughs) “I don’t think so – but you never know what I’m gonna do. When you score sometimes adrenaline takes over and there’s no planning for that. I know some guys have planned celebrations. I’m not one of those guys. It tends to surprise me when I score, so I don’t know how the backflip started but it was just kind of a spontaneous thing. Maybe I’ll do one just to see if I still can, but I have a feeling it might be embarrassing.”

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