A record-setting soccer crowd of 15,023 filled Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park on Cinco de Mayo, and were treated to a victory by the new professional soccer team, New Mexico United.
New Mexico United (4-1-5) defeated visiting San Antonio FC (3-5-1) by a score of 3-0, moving them into first place in the USL Championship league.
It’s the inaugural season for New Mexico United, as the team was formed on June 6 of last year. Since then, the team’s popularity in the state is only continuing to rise.
Fans showed up in droves for the Sunday afternoon match, donning the team’s yellow and black flags and hats with the logo of the team emblazoned in the forefront.
Phillip Alderete drove down from Las Vegas, New Mexico, to watch the match.
“It’s more of a culture,” he said of the team and its fans. “We got there late, had a few beers and it was just an experience– a lot of welcoming people. The whole community itself, just thriving together. Almost like a heartbeat. The heartbeat of Albuquerque.”
“I’ve been to Isotopes game before, but man, that whole soccer thing is a new wave in Albuquerque — the whole state actually.”
Alderete is also a big fan of Santa Fe Brewery’s new beer, the “Pepe Loco,” which was featured at all of its taprooms on Cinco De Mayo, and was a featured beer at the match on Sunday.
Kristopher Montano, who helps with merchandising, parking and field cleanup for the team, said the atmosphere was “super crazy.”
The lines to enter were wrapped around the entire Isotopes Park prior to the start of the match, Montano said.
Although he worked the match, Montano said he did enjoy it.
“I had tons of fun,” Montano said.
New Mexico United, on Twitter, sent a series of tweets with the line “Family supports family,” and included many local businesses and fundraisers in its tweets.
In one tweet, New Mexico United promoted custom screen printed T’s made by members of The Curse, a fan support group of United, to help donate money to the family of United player Justin Schmidt.
Schmidt’s father, Jonathon Schmidt, died in a car accident last month.
The family set up a GoFundMe account to support expenses for the medical expenses for the mother of Justin Schmidt, who was also in the car accident and was badly injured.
Yellow bands, which captains usually wear in soccer, were handed out to fans with the help of The Curse, an independent support group of United, and Starr Brothers Brewing. Although they were free, donations were asked for the Schmidt family.
The first 4,000 fans received custom flags from New Mexico United. The flag included a yellow background with a skull and the words “Nuevo México Unido” and the date “05.05.19” to commemorate the Cinco De Mayo match.
The tailgates started at 9 a.m., and many people participated in cookouts, drinking and playing games such as cornhole and basketball. Others, of course, were playing soccer.
Montano said he felt a sense of community — a coming together that isn’t all too common in Albuquerque, he said.
“I think it brings people together more than the Isotopes, football and basketball,” Montano said. “I’ve never seen a big amount of people support one team like they do United.”
But just how much has New Mexico United had an effect on the community and fans?
“It’s one of the best things to happen for our sports scene here in New Mexico,” Montano said. “This is what the city needs, and this is what the people need.”