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Cristian Nava’s potential Open Cup return provides emotional boost for New Mexico United

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/15/24, 4:12PM EDT


20-year-old could see first official action since being sidelined by torn ACL a season ago on Tuesday night

More than a year since his last official action, New Mexico United's Cristian Nava could return from a torn ACL on Tuesday night against Lubbock Matadors in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. | Photo courtesy Josh Lane / New Mexico United

It’s been more than a year since we’ve seen New Mexico United’s Cristian Nava in live action after a torn ACL derailed what both the Albuquerque native and the club were hoping would be a breakout season.

On Tuesday night in New Mexico’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup contest against Lubbock Matadors, though, the 20-year-old could be back in action again.

It’s been a long road back, but Nava is ready to make an impact.

“There is like so much hunger because you do this for a living now,” Nava told KQRE’s Bradley Benson last week. “Not being able to play for the last year has shown me to not take any moment for granted. Whether it’s in practice, whether it’s being in the locker room with the guys, don’t take those moments for granted because at any point in time it can be gone.”

Nava seemed on the brink of a breakthrough after a 2022 season in which he notched two goals and two assists in 16 appearances for the side. The Golden Ball winner at the 2021 USL Academy League Playoffs, he was the first player to sign professional terms with the club as the Academy program funded by the Somos Unidos Foundation took shape.

Now he’s going to get the chance to make up for lost time.

Coming into a United lineup that has undergone plenty of changes since last year’s season opener, the creativity Nava can provide – as well as new Head Coach Eric Quill’s ability to coax the best out of young talent as exhibited at his previous stop at North Texas SC – feels like he should fit right into a squad that has made a strong start to the new campaign.

United is intent on not rushing him back into action – nor does it need to – but making the first step back onto the field would be a major step forward in the big picture.

“Coming back from a long-term injury takes incredible grit and determination,” said United Sporting Director Itamar Keinan. “While making sure the body recovers well is crucial, equally as important is the mental toll it can take on an athlete to not be on the field every day. Cristian has shown determination, diligence and tenacity, and we can’t wait for him to be on the field again.”

For a side that could have the potential to make a run in the Open Cup, Nava’s return adds another quality option to Quill’s squad.

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