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All I want for Christmas

Jose Acezes, a second-grade student from Sidney Gutierrez Elementary School, stands with a soccer ball and a water bottle during a soccer event held by New Mexico United at Cielo Grande Sports Complex on Dec. 18. (J.T. Keith Photo)

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Christmas came early for some Roswell kids and soccer fans. On Dec. 18, the New Mexico United soccer team was in town at Cielo Grande Sports Complex holding a soccer clinic and giving gifts away. Also on hand was recently retired United soccer player, David Estrada.

David Carl, director of communications and fan experience for United, gave fans an opportunity to meet a professional soccer player up close and to see what they go through. The kids ran some kicking and passing drills for Roswell Youth Soccer Association.

“It’s really an exciting stop on our holiday tour,” Carl said. “We are going around the state to a bunch of different spots including Roswell to give away Puma backpacks, water bottles and soccer balls to kids. We are trying to get the word out about soccer throughout the state. We want to give those items out so kids that might not have a backpack or soccer ball can have one, sort of like an early Christmas gift.”

One of the kids receiving those items was Jose Acezes. The second-grader from Sidney Gutierrez was excited by the gift he saw in his backpack. Jose was hyped when he stuck his hand in the backpack and pulled out a soccer ball and a water bottle.

“Roswell is one of the stops we always want to come to,” Carl said. “Roswell is a great spot, especially for youth soccer. We are trying to make sure kids in Roswell have a happy holiday and have a fun experience with us.”

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Jose, a 7-year-old, promised he has been a good boy this year and expects Santa Claus to visit his house on Christmas night. The gifts that he received at Cielo Grande were nice, but what Jose really wants for Christmas is a red electric guitar. When asked why he likes red, he commented that red means power.

Jose has played with Roswell Youth Soccer Association for the last two years. The reason Jose likes playing soccer is because he likes kicking the ball. No matter what Christmas brings or doesn’t bring him, the true meaning of Christmas to him is joy and being with family.

This is the second consecutive year the United team has been to Roswell for their holiday tour. One of the main differences is that last year’s stop was hands-on, and this year because of COVID-19, they have had to social distance and be very careful.

The United team had a successful season, making it all the way to the Western Conference semifinals. They were the only team out of 37 in the country to play all 34 games on the road this season. The team is in the process of signing new players and just signed Harry Swartz who was the Most Valuable Player for Hartford Athletic.

Also, there will be a youth 23s, meaning they will play in the USL 2, which will be a semiprofessional league. It is intended for players 23 and under. This team will travel and play against other teams along the west coast. They will not have a home stadium but will play their games around New Mexico in different stadiums to become New Mexico’s team. Coaches are scouting now for players to build this team, which will be made up of New Mexicans.

Here’s hoping Jose Acezes received the gifts he wanted for Christmas, and everyone in Roswell has a Merry Christmas.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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