Bandits slip away from the Runners

by Charley Bickel

Returning home from a two game road trip the New Mexico Runners took to the turf in Rio Rancho Saturday night looking to maintain their perfect record at home. However, the Bandits managed to slip away from New Mexico late in the fourth quarter after a back and fourth battle that saw neither team gain any separation. The Bandits drew first blood at 11:07 in the first as Tamagachi Ryota slipped a shot passed starting keeper Nate Yeager. Shortly after Dodge City picked up an early blue card penalty allowing the Runners to capitalize on the power play. Second year veteran Jaxn Rodgers connected on a pass from team captain Froilan Ramirez evening the score midway through the first. For the first time this year New Mexico was tasked with defending against two penalty shootouts, a true test of the Yeager's ability after recovering from a serious ankle injury he sustained several weeks back at Amarillo. Yeager was ineligible to defend the first PK as he was serving the resultant blue card penalty but he managed to save the second PK late in the fourth which would have pushed the lead beyond 5 with just 3 minutes left to play. Yeager finished with 13 saves on 23 shots in his first start since January 29.

The second half was an entirely different game as both teams recorded more shots in the third and fourth quarters than they did in either of the opening two frames. Unfortunately for New Mexico a few more of the Bandits shots found their way home and Dodge City held a four goal lead with 10 minutes left to play. The Runners pulled Yeager in favor of Rodgers as a sixth attacker. Rodgers ran two offensive possessions from center field before finding Vince Aragon on the far side who sent the ball over to Mehrshad Ahmadi completing his hat trick and bringing the Runners back within three. With tonight's performance, Ahmadi has scored 3 or more goals in nine consecutive starts and is closing in on 50 career goals with 43 already in the books. He is currently leading the team in goals with 25, following by Aragon with 10 goals to date. In total the game saw four ties and three lead changes as well as a halftime performance by the Rio Elite Dance team. The game also featured a high school friendly between in town rivals Rio Rancho Rams and the Cleveland Storm. Cleveland secured the victory 2-1 receiving the Run As One community trophy at halftime. The loss drops the Runners to 3-1 at home and 3-3 overall and currently in third place in the MASL 2 Midwest Division.

The Runners are on the road next week at Colorado Inferno FC at 2:00pm. The game can be streamed live on the Colorado Inferno FC Facebook page. New Mexico will be back in action at home on February 25th at 5:05pm at the Rio Rancho Event Center for Faith and Family night. Single game tickets can be purchased here