By Alicia Arias | Photo: Giovanni Delgado
After a tough loss against Tulsa in mid-October, I went to the New Mexico United training facility to interview right-back, Manny Padilla. I had never been to the United facility, which basically feels like a secret headquarters in the middle of nowhere. The signature yellow and black shield on the doors as I walked up started this one-of-a-kind experience.
Some of you may know me as one of the female co-hosts on the We Are Seek & Strike Podcast. A weekly fan podcast dedicated to coverage of New Mexico United, Albuquerque FC, UNM Lobo Women’s Soccer and New Mexico’s soccer community as a whole.
I also contribute by translating the articles from English to Spanish. When it was not immediately known if Padilla was coming back in 2020, I shelved my write-up. Through time, Padilla has shown cryptic signs of his possible return so I began to prepare my story for release so as soon as he’s announced this would be released.
This is my first article of the year and I had no idea that it would be connected to the re-signing of Manny Padilla for the 2020 season.
So, as I entered through the doors of the facility I was greeted by Technical Director & Head Coach for United, Troy Lesesne. Lesesne was getting ready for his weekly interview with new channel KRQE. Next, I was greeted by Elizabeth Davis, Marketing and Communications Director and Jessica Campbell, Public Relations Assistant.
While waiting for Manny, I kept noticing all the players and personnel had a good positive energy about them. This came as a surprise to me given the fact that they had just lost on October 12 and that their playoff hopes seemed to be fading away. At this point in the season, every point mattered for United to earn a spot in the playoffs.
“Hi, I’m Jerry! Nice to meet you.” Manny said “introducing” himself. After a laugh, he leads me to the cafeteria where some players were either sitting and eating lunch or just coming and going getting only what they needed. Sitting down for my first 1-on-1 was very nerve wracking. I set everything down and just asked him how he felt after Saturday’s game.
Manny Padilla: We’re good we’re just trying to get back on track…”
Alicia Arias: During situations like these, where everyone on the table is so tight on points, what motivates you to keep going?
MP: My parents. My family. I do it for all the sacrifices they’ve done for this moment.
AA: We’re at the end of the season, 2 games left. What was your favorite moment of the season?
MP: My favorite moment was well it’s not a particular moment. It’s the word “United” with our fans have been united with us. We’ve been united with the team, it’s been a whole family, a whole New Mexico throughout the whole year and that’s been my favorite.
AA: That being said regardingthe fans, there have been a lot of sold-out games, how does it feel to be playing in front of such a huge crowd?
MP: It’s different. I’m used to more like 5,000 and 7,000 crowds. Having a 12,000 minimum for every game was unreal. It’s definitely like having the 12th man out there. It’s pretty cool.
AA: Do you get nervous with such a big crowd like that?
MP: I don’t get nervous, it makes me feel at home knowing that the fans are there to have my back.
AA: On match days, what does your preparation look like?
MP: You know I just get up and go get breakfast at The Grove and after that maybe get a haircut. I like getting haircuts on game days before the game. I also play fortnite, a new map is out so I’m excited for that. It came out just this morning.
AA: Are you superstitious?
MP: Not really. I just get up, get breakfast, and play fortnite. It’s basically what I do everyday. Oh I also drink kombucha everyday.
AA: As a push for the playoffs, which of the last 2 games will be the most difficult?
MP: I think… I don’t like to… I think of the game in front of us (Tacoma Defiance). We’re thinking of this game as a playoff game.
AA: What is is going to take not only for you but for the team to try and secure a spot for playoffs?
MP: For me it’s to try and do my best for the team and not be selfish. It’s going to take a selfless act for both games.
AA: Are you feeling good for tomorrow? (Devon Sandoval walks in to get his lunch)
MP: Yeah I’m feeling good about tomorrow. Hopefully I can get some good crosses for that guy (Devon) over here haha.
DS: I’m anticipating it. I’m always there.
AA: You’re still young, do you have any long-term goals or short-term goals planned for your career?
MP: I tend to look at what’s in front of me. If i start thinking too far ahead into the future I start to overthink and get stressed out. Last year I was with RGV (Rio Grande Valley Toros) and they’re an affiliate to Houston Dynamo. I was lucky enough to be called up to Dynamo and all I could think about was “I want to be here next year!Next year! Next year!” but it didn’t end up happening. That’s why I just worry for the next game and then on to the next.
AA: ¿Hay alguien que admires de México o de otro país?
MP: Danny Alves de Barcelona, también estaba con PSG (Paris Saint-Germain), y ahora está jugando con Sao Paulo. Es defensa derecha como yo. Tambien Rafa Marquez y Layun.
AA: Is there any soccer player you admire from Mexico or another country?
MP: Danny Alves from Barcelona, he also played for PSG (Paris Saint-Germain), now he’s with Sao Paulo. He’s right back just like me. I also admire Rafa Marquez and Layun (Miguel Layun).
AA: ¿Y ahorita no estás viendo el fútbol? ¿Liga Mx, La Liga, Premier league?
MP: No veo futbol de ninguna liga. Nomas cuando juega el equipo nacional de México o la final de un mundial. Veo más el baloncesto que el fútbol.
AA: Are you watching any soccer right now? Liga Mx, La Liga, Premier League?
MP: I actually don’t watch soccer from any league. I only tend to watch when the Mexican national team is playing or a World Cup final. I watch more basketball than soccer.
AA: Speaking of basketball, NBA is about to kick off. Any teams? Any plans for the off season?
MP: Off season? I plan on going home, L.A or San Francisco. Just work out there and spend time with my family. NBA? I’m a lakers fan.
AA: From a fellow teammate of mine, how do you feel about the Clippers bringing the gold home?
MP: The gold is where Lebron is. Lebron will always be the best. We have the rights to the stadium.
AA: Thank you for your time today and goodluck on Wednesday and Saturday. Let’s push for playoffs!
MP: Thank you, we definitely will!
This was back when we didn’t even know what the playoff picture would look like. We had tied against Tacoma 1-1 and we needed either San Antontio to lose to the Switchbacks or El Paso to win against LA Galaxy II. We also needed to win our match against Las Vegas. Saturday came and we were up 1-0 at halftime and we cheered when San Antonio lost against the Switchbacks. Then, United won 2-0 against Las Vegas and would be going to the USL Play-In Round a few days later to determine who would actually make the playoffs. United would be playing Sacramento Republic FC.
Sadly, United lost 2-1 and their season was finally over. It was a good run for a first-year team considering their Open Cup run as well. Now it came to the hard part, who would be coming back for 2020?
Who were we saying “Welcome Back” to and who are we going to thanking for their contributions by saying “You’ll always be apart of the United family.”
With 14 players now rostered, fans kept wondering “Padilla? Is he coming back?”, “We need Padilla! When’s that announcement?” Being a fan favorite, many were scared that another team was going to take him in the offseason.
But this all changed moments ago as New Mexico United announced the re-signing of Padilla for 2020 first in a comical way with a montage of mustache until finally the Mannystache Mafia revealed its Don. New Mexico fans will have Padilla for another year and season.
Details of this signing were released by Public Relations team at New Mexico United. Padilla is the 15th rostered player. Padilla signed a new contract, which is pending the United Soccer League (USL) and federation approval.
Padilla rejoins Rashid Tetteh, Justin Schmidt, Josh Suggs, Austin Yearwood as the United back line. Only Ethen Sampson has departed them so, we expect Lesesne to add another full-back in the approaching time.
“I am excited to be back with a good group of guys from last year,” said Manny Padilla. “[I am] looking forward to getting back to work with them and writing more history together.”
Padilla is not only a defender, but an attacking one as well. He made 28 appearances, 25 starts, and led the team with 7 assists. Many felt that with him in the back four, our defense was getting better and better.
“Manny made such huge strides through the season and became a focal point of our attack from the right-back position,” said Lesesne. “Having him back is important for our system and style of play. It’s also important for our culture, as he’s a player that’s determined to be the best right-back in the league and bring a championship to New Mexico.”
Seek & Strike Collective welcomes you back Manny Padilla. It’s okay to think about next year because next year, you’ll be United!
¡Que Viva Padilla!