Chiva scores five, Rhinos best Runners in Season 5 opener

by Peter Griego/Charley Bickel

Rio Rancho, NM - The New Mexico Runners opened the 2023-24 season Saturday afternoon hosting the El Paso Rhinos at the Rio Rancho Event Center. The two teams battled through first three quarters with the Rhinos only gaining separation in the last 12 minutes of competition.

El Paso struck first with Edgar Perez scoring less than three minutes into play. The Runners responded with two goals from inaugural season standout and former league MVP Jamie "Chiva" Rodriguez to take an early lead late in the first. The Rhinos would soon get even after a Mario Arrietta goal to tie the match at two.

New Mexico went on a run to start the second, with goals from Vince Aragon and Josh Garcia to take their largest lead of the match midway into the quarter. El Paso would mount a comeback in the final minute of the first half, with a pair of goals from Arrieta and Perez. The two teams would head into the break dead-locked at four.

El Paso would draw first blood after the break, with Jose Jacoro scoring just 30 seconds into the third quarter, taking their first lead since the opening period. It wouldn't take long for the Runners to answer, as Colton Oord would score the equalizer less than two minutes later. Both teams traded goals for the remainder of the quarter, with Chiva tallying two more scores in his highly anticipated return to the land of enchantment. 

The match would get away from the Runners in the final 15 minutes. The Rhinos tallied five goals in the fourth, with team leading scorers Arrieta and Perez each recording two more. Chiva would finally break the Runners dry spell in the final minute, cutting the Rhinos lead to four. This was Chiva's fifth goal of the match, to lead all scorers. El Paso would add insult to injury in the final 30 seconds, with Pedro Cajtaneda finding Christian Marquez to extend the lead to five.

The game went final at 8-13, dropping the Runners to 0-1 on the year, with the Rhinos improving to 1-0. Overall four different Runners recorded scores with starting goalkeeper Nate Yeager logging 18 saves on 29 total shots.

The Runners will be back in action at the Rio Rancho Events Center next Sunday, taking on the Amarilo Bombers on January 7, at 3:05 PM MST. Tickets can be purchased here