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Fan Focus: Sunderland fan & New Mexico commentator Chris gives us the lowdown on our opponents!

We spoke to Sunderland fan & New Mexico United commentator Chris Hurst ahead of tonight’s match to get the lowdown on our opponents, and to find out what it’s like having a foot in both camps...

You simply couldn’t ask for a more perfect fixture between your boyhood club and the team you commentate on Chris, what was your initial reaction when the match was announced?

Chris Hurst: There’s a video of it, haha. I had no idea. They had told me we were playing QPR, so I’d done a bunch of research on them so I sounded like I knew something about them.

It was the week we played them so I felt prepared. So complete shock! I’ve been trying to work out a way to get back during the season with the family for a game, so the fact they have come here was, and quite frankly still is a complete shock.

How did your relationship with Sunderland come about, and what are your favourite memories before moving?

CH: I first started going to games during the 91/92 season. The year we went to Wembley and played Liverpool.

My first game is a bit of a blur, I remember I stood in the Fulwell end, but that's about it. My first proper memory is the game vs Birmingham when Jahn Kay broke his leg and rowed off the pitch.

I was in the clock stand and the guy who broke his leg came to take a throw-in, I was right at the front on a little stool to help me see, and everyone behind us rushed to try and spit and get at that player.

One of my favorite memories is the Chelsea 4-1 game. I was right behind Kevin Phillips when he hit that half-volley in the north east corner, I’ll never forget that. Also the beamback for the 2-1 win vs the mags. When Tommy saved that penalty I ended up three rows down lying on the floor. It bloody hurt but I didn’t care.

You currently commentate for New Mexico United - what brought you to the States and how did your role at the club come about?

CH: I have been in ABQ since February 2004. I have coached for the same club for all 19 years.

I now run that youth club as the Director of Coaching for Rio Rapids SC. The New Mexico gig came about completely out of the blue. I certainly didn’t see any kind of commentating (announcing they call it out here) in my future.

When the guy called me I actually thought it was someone winding me up. But I actually used to coach the owner's kid from time to time.

Apparently, he remembered some sarcastic comment I’d made years previous and told the guy charged with finding a commentary team that he thought I’d be good at it. The rest is history.

I did one game on TV and the rest on radio for the first two seasons, then moved solely onto TV for the last two years. We stream on ESPN+ and on a local TV station. Our games are also streamed in the UK on YouTube.

New Mexico currently sit 9th in the USL Championship Western Conference table, how would you summarise your season so far?

CH: The halfway point of the season was literally last week vs Detroit.

The first half of the season was a tale of what might have been. The NM United squad is talented for the USL Champ. They see a lot of the ball, but they struggled to convert their chances.

They have got a new coach, Eric Quill, and they have only lost once since. They have a style where they continue to have a lot of the ball, but create a ton of chances from that possession. This will be a test for a young SAFC team.

SOCCER: MAY 10 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup - Austin FC vs New Mexico United
Our recent opponents San Antonio beat New Mexico 2-1 back in May.
Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The team is managed by Eric Quill, how would you describe his style of play?

CH: As I said above, they dominate the ball. The players appear to enjoy playing for him.

There is a freedom in how they are performing. A confidence. The formations tend to be pretty fluid in and out of possession making it hard for the opposition to get set up.

Since EQ took over, they are one of the top teams for entry passes into the final third.

New Mexico have three British players in the squad, including Josh Dolling, Greg Hurst & Daniel Bruce - what do you think are the key benefits of English players venturing to America to play football?

CH: The entire league is made up of lots of different nationalities, including NM United.

The Brits obviously bring that British culture and love for the game. Daniel Bruce is a huge fan favorite in NM. If he plays, anyone watching will hear the crowd chant “Bruce”, not too diss-similar to “Gooch” from our fans.

Many of the British players end up in USL after playing college soccer here in the States.

Which New Mexico players should Sunderland be wary of?

CH: I’m not sure how many of the big guys will play with a huge league game coming up on Saturday.

I get the feeling both Sunderland and NM United will be playing young teams. Daniel Bruce has been on a tear recently, especially since the new coach took over, scoring or assisting regularly.

Armando Moreno, the El Salvador national team player is another attacking weapon to be wary of. Alex Waggoner is a young academy product who is about to leave to play for the University of Michigan Wolverines, fresh off a game-winning goal vs Detroit.

Many Sunderland fans will know New Mexico as the place where the hit series Breaking Bad was set, what are your favourite things about the state and can you tell us some interesting facts about the team?

CH: One thing about the team to understand is that they put a huge emphasis on fan engagement. For instance tonight, they put on a Q&A with both SAFC and NM United coaches and the entire squads of both teams were there. The off-field “stuff” is just as important to them.

The state of NM is a beautiful place. It has its issues like anywhere, but seeing people from Sunderland here and enjoying the sites is great to see.

Each year the largest balloon rally in the world happens here. The ABQ Balloon Fiesta has 500+ hot air balloons taking off every morning. Have to see it to believe it.

The mountains and the vistas here truly are breathtaking. I love the Northumberland coast and the lake district. I think the scenery here in NM matches it, especially at sunset. NM also averages 310 days of sunshine each year.

I read that there are going to be dangerously hot temperatures around the time match is on, how hot does it normally get in New Mexico around this time of year?

CH: It has been brutal recently.

It was 105 today (41 Celsius). However right before the open session the first rain we’ve seen in months rolled in and cooled things down into the 90s.

Normally this time of year we’d have the monsoon storms roll in, but they haven’t started yet and everyone is hoping they turn up soon for some relief from this heat.

What is your prediction for the final score?

CH: Similar to the last game - I can see Sunderland winning 3-1 again.

I think both teams will play younger teams. For SAFC they played 45 minutes with two different sets of ten players.

I've heard players will play a full 90, and even Matthew Young might get the nod if not from the start, for at least some senior minutes.


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