"When people hear about Albuquerque they only think of the show Breaking Bad. There's definitely more to it for sure."
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Hello Readers, and welcome back to AP! We've got a brand new interview for you, featuring a team from the Albuquerque Soccer League. By the way, you can now view the standings for the ASL by mousing over the Standings tab and going to the West Region. That way you can also track the progress of today's team, New Mexico FC. Now, without anymore introduction, AP presents Enchanted Soccer. Check it out.
Current New Mexico FC Team
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with New Mexico FC.
My name is Kenny Ortega. I'm 29. Originally from Las Vegas, New Mexico. I never actually played soccer in high school. I played baseball in college but have always watched Champions League since I was young. My junior year in college I gave soccer a try and started playing on the club team at New Mexico Highlands University. Shortly after I joined the Marines. While I was in the Marines my friend Gerad Baca was playing on a soccer team in Albuquerque. When I was discharged from the Marines he brought me onto the team he was on called Wolfpack FC.
I'm one of the founders of NMFC.
What's the story behind the creation of New Mexico FC?
When I was in the Marines my buddy Gerad and I would text back and forth about creating our own team. I often joked that we would be New Spain FC or New Mexico FC so that if MLS ever decided to expand to New Mexico we would have the name haha. When I moved to Albuquerque I joined Wolfpack FC. We had a few friends move to Albuquerque that we brought along to Wolfpack FC however that meant more than 20 players on the squad and very little playing time to go around. So in the Summer of 2014 we finally created NMFC. It was a rough summer in that we were always short players and were one of the worst teams in the 2nd division.
I'm curious about the league you play in, especially since it has multiple divisions. What league do you currently play in, and how is it structured?
So the Albuquerque Soccer League has 3 divisions. We currently play in he second division. We all made an agreement that we will not move up to the first division until we win the 2nd division. Which is pretty difficult since last year there was 36 teams and this year there is around 30. Last year we lost in the quarterfinals to a really good team that had former UNM players on their squad.
Sounds like you have a gentleman's agreement for a quasi promotion and relegation system. Do teams in the Albuquerque Soccer League do promotion and relegation of any kind?
So usually the top 2 teams will move up and the bottom 3 or so move down. However it's really up to the team managers if they want to move up or down. I wish the league forced the top 3 and bottom 3 teams to be promoted or relegated.
So it's more of an informal promotion and relegation setup. Is there any reason the league doesn't mandate an actual system?
I don't know why they don't mandate it.
Fair enough. Now, I've been to Albuquerque a couple of times, but how would you describe your city to someone who's never been there, and why hatch green chilies are the best thing on planet earth?
So I've lived in Albuquerque for only a few years. When people hear about Albuquerque they only think of the show Breaking Bad. There's definitely more to it for sure. One thing is the food. If you love Spanish/Mexican food this is the place to be. Just like you mentioned our Green Chile is amazing. No matter where you go (including fast food restaurants) you can always add Green Chile to your meal. It's literally an obsession here.I think our red chili is just as good. One thing about Albuquerque and New Mexico in general is the outdoor life. If you love camping, hiking, biking and fishing this is the place for you. The views are some of the best I have seen.
One of my wife and I's goals is to move to New Mexico because we love the countryside so much. How is the soccer scene in Albuquerque? I know the Sol play in the PDL, but without some serious digging you wouldn't know Albuquerque Soccer League, or New Mexico FC, for that matter, actually exist.
The soccer scene is really growing. A read an article in the Albuquerque journal about a year back that basically mentioned how soccer is the most popular sport in kids and adults. It listed that thousands of kids now play. As far as nobody really knowing about the ASL and NMFC that's just the way it is. To be honest my mom doesn't even know what NMFC is. We actually hope to attempt to participate in the USOC qualification before we all get too old!
What would the path for USOC Qualifying look like for NMFC?
That's just the thing. The entire process is complicated. If we could just fill out a form, submit money and know where we needed to play we would have done it already. If you go to the USOC website it gives you very little information. We want to participate. Don't get me wrong, we don't have these crazy expectations or anything, we just want to be part of the open cup. It's just a complicated process that nobody can seem to help us with. Two seasons ago we had study abroad students attending UNM from Scotland, England and Germany on our squad and we really wanted to play in the tournament while we had them but it wasn't possible. The process needs to be simplified for amateur teams to compete.
USOC has got to step up it's game when it comes to making things easier on everyone, that's for sure. Aside from the qualifying process, what's one thing you would like to see changed about the USOC?
I would like games to be made available. Maybe add more games on YouTube or other streaming websites.
Smart idea. Where would you like to see NMFC, and sort of by extension, the Albuquerque Soccer League, in five years?
I'd like to see NMFC in the first division of the ASL and hopefully having participated in the USOC by that point. As far as ASL is concerned, probably the automatic promotion and relegation that we spoke about. I'd like to see the top 4 promoted and bottom 4 relegated.
Previous New Mexico FC Team
Who would you say are your biggest current rivals in the ASL?
I would say our two main rivals are Lobos FC and Monterrey Rayados. Every time we play these teams there always seems to be a red card involved. They are the only two teams in the league that we have failed to beat. Hopefully that all changes once the playoffs begin in May.
Best of luck come on the playoffs then! What are some of the challenges you encounter running a lower league team?
Thank you. One of the major issues we dealt with our first few seasons was definitely keeping a full roster. Our first season we had half our team not come back. Then we had players that studies abroad for a year at UNM. But now I think we have a very stable roster that should stick together for awhile.
How do you go about creating a stable roster for a lower league? Is it basically a war of attrition to find the most dedicated people?
Luckily a core group of our team went to high school together. So we recruited friends to play. To fill out our roster we added anybody that was looking for a team. Luckily we've been able to add players that are pretty damn good. A lot of our team were either all-district or all-state in high school. So we've been able to keep this current group for about a year now. Now that we have this feel for each other we have been clicking on all cylinders.
How important do you feel it is, as non-league team, to create that sense of continuity and familiarity on the playing field?
Very important. To be able to know how each of your teammates play is key to having success. If you keep changing players from season to season I guarantee you aren't going to be successful. Which is why over the last 3 seasons we have continued to see success. Currently we are undefeated.
Let's move into some short form questions to start wrap things up. What's your favorite league and or team to watch for fun?
I'm a huge fan of MLS. When I lived in DC I was a member of La Barra Brava. But sometimes some of the matches are hard to watch. I watch a lot of Premier League and Bundesliga as well. Lately I've enjoyed watching Dortmund matches thanks to the rise of Pulisic. I also follow Huddersfield Town of The English Championship.
Favorite players, one past, one present.
One current player would have to be Ibrahimovic just for the pure entertainment. He's one of the best and he knows it. Player from the past would have to be Ronaldo. He's one of the first soccer players that caught my eye before I was even interested in the sport. I can watch highlights of his all day.
Do you have any books, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend?
The only soccer book I do have is Soccernomics. So it basically discusses how national teams from the USA, Iraq, India and China will eventually dominate the game. However that hasn't happened yet. It's a decent book to read.
I love that one. You can meet one person from soccer, regardless of time period. Who do you meet?
No question it would be David Beckham. I watched him in DC when he was with the Galaxy and it was one of the coolest experiences. He has the star power.
Where can people find more about the team online?
We are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just search New Mexico FC.
Closing question. What would you say to someone asking you why they should spend their time and money supporting a local non league side, like New Mexico FC?
First off it's really hard to get anyone whether it's a business or family to support a local non-league side. Luckily we also have a coed team so whenever the new team does play we have a decent amount of supporters. But I think people should support non-league sides because we are the players that have to pay a lot of money to participate and amateurs I believe play for the love of the game. Amateur sides always need support whether if it's liking us on twitter and Instagram or actually attending games.
Valid point. Thank you again for your time Kenny, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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