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Senior forward Devon Sandoval’s confidence is high after practicing during the summer with two MLS teams. Sandoval has high hopes for the upcoming season, which will help determine what is next in his soccer career.

Forward practices with pros

tromeros@unm.edu

Lobo soccer has been an important part of senior forward Devon Sandoval’s life since he was little.

For as long as he can remember, Sandoval has watched UNM soccer, but for one season he was neither cheering nor playing for the cherry and silver.

After graduating from Southwest Secondary High School in 2009, Sandoval decided to take his talents to SDSU for his freshman season. During that year he played in 15 games, started four and scored two goals.

Instead of finishing his collegiate career with the Aztecs, Sandoval transferred back to Albuquerque after his freshman year.
Sandoval said he came back for a variety of reasons, some of them private.

“There was some personal stuff behind it, but this is where I wanted to be,” Sandoval said.

And this is where he shined. In his junior year he led the Lobos to an undefeated season at 18-0-4 and the No. 1 ranking in Division I soccer.

Sandoval said he’s hoping for more than an encore during his senior year: he wants the Lobos to be the last team standing at the end of the College Cup.

“I think we can be better than last season,” Sandoval said. “We can go as far as we want. I’m confident in everybody.”

Sandoval goes into the season this year having practiced with two Major League Soccer clubs during the summer. First, Sandoval traveled to Washington, D.C., to practice with D.C. United for a week. Then he went to Salt Lake City to play with Real Salt Lake for a week and a half.

Sandoval said working with both teams has boosted his confidence.

“I was successful playing with them. I learned from them and my confidence has hit an all-time high,” Sandoval said. “D.C. was a little tough because it was my first time practicing with a pro team. The next time with Real (Salt Lake), I wasn’t as nervous and was able to score goals and do my own thing.”

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Junior Javier Lane, who has known and played with Sandoval for several years, said Sandoval understands his performance this year will determine how much attention he gets from pro scouts.

“I think this year he realizes it’s his chance to make it to the next level,” Lane said. “He realizes it’s not going to be easy to make it to the next level, that’s why he’s putting in the work now.”

And he’s always got devoted fans cheering him on. At contests, Sandoval’s family is known for tailgating before games, and sometimes more than 20 family members come and root for Sandoval.

“It’s pretty cool playing in front of my family; they come every game,” Sandoval said. “It’s like a dream come true, having my family watching me.”

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