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How New Mexico’s youngsters keyed a dramatic fightback | Young Player Spotlight

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/08/23, 6:00PM EDT


Academy Cup standouts Waggoner, Robles each played role in goals to earn result at RGVFC

New Mexico United 18-year-old Alex Waggoner didn't get his name on the scoresheet, but he and fellow NMU Academy standout Andres Robles had a key impact in the side's late 2-2 draw at Rio Grande Valley FC. | Photo courtesy Christian Inoferio / Rio Grande

New Mexico United’s Academy has come a long way in a short time.

And while Saturday night didn’t mark the sort of landmark that appears in a box score, the impact of two players who have made a big impression at the USL Academy level – teenagers Alex Waggoner and Andres Robles – was front and center in earning the club a crucial late result.

Both came off the bench, with Waggoner introduced first with 20 minutes to go. Winner of the Golden Boot at the 2022 USL Academy League Finals last November, the 18-year-old showed off his attacking instincts in the first minute of stoppage time. Waggoner cut in at the near post to clip Milo Garvanian’s cross on the half-volley alive on target, an effort Toros goalkeeper Tyler Deric could only parry, which allowed Harry Swartz to put away the rebound.

Robles followed with 10 minutes to go for his first senior minutes in the Championship, and quickly delivered as well. Finding space on the right flank, the 19-year-old delivered a deep cross to the back post where Kalen Ryden was on hand to head back across goal for Sergio Rivas to finish from close range.

In the space of 75 second, New Mexico United had gone from a two-goal deficit to salvaging a point and had two of its Academy standouts to partly thank.

New Mexico has already seen its first Academy product make his impact in the First Team in Cristian Nava, whose season was cruelly cut short by injury in March. With Waggoner, Robles and others, the next wave might not be too far behind.

Here are some other young players that caught our eye this week…

- Korede Odunsina, Orange County SC: The United States U-19 international bagged his first senior goal for Orange County against San Diego Loyal SC, providing a silver lining to another tough result.

- Tomas Ritondale, Rio Grande Valley FC: The 21-year-old put in a solid shift on the left side before being removed late for an injury before the Toros’ let their lead slip, completing 34 of 45 passes and eight recoveries.

- Miles Lyons, El Paso Locomotive FC: The 20-year-old pushed up positively from right back, taking two shots and completing 3 of 4 dribbles while completing 21 of 26 passes in his side’s victory at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

- Alex Romero, Las Vegas Lights FC: The 18-year-old midfielder completed 20 of 28 passes and made eight recoveries in a solid display against defending title holder San Antonio FC on Sunday.

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