Oct. 23, 2011
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. --- For just the second time in program history, the New Mexico men's soccer squad went undefeated in their regular season road schedule. The Lobos netted two goals on Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday afternoon, shutting out the Roadrunners and heading into their final three home matches with an improved record of 13-0-2, 7-0-0 MPSF.
Bakersfield came into Sunday's match leading the Pacific Division of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation with 15 points and riding the heels of a 2-1 victory over UNLV on Friday night. With just one loss on the season to MPSF rival San Jose State, the Roadrunners threatened all year to pose a challenge to the undefeated Lobos.
With a target on their backs, the Lobos had everything to lose, and the Roadrunners came out of the gates hot. CSU Bakersfield tested the Lobo defense from the get-go, peppering goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez with seven first-half shots, two of which fell on-net.
Yet it was New Mexico that lit up the scoreboard first. Redshirt freshman Carson Baldinger entered the game in the 41st minute, and was on the field for less than a minute before logging his fourth goal and second consecutive game-winner of the season. Baldinger got his head on a Michal Green corner kick to put the Lobos up 1-0 headed into the half.
In a highly charged environment in the most anticipated conference game of the year for both teams, a physical game was to be expected. The second 45 saw a physical game start to border on hostile, especially after Blake Smith notched an insurance goal to put the Lobos up 2-0 in the 68th minute. Smith capitalized on a Roadrunner turnover, beating the back line off the dribble and netting a shot from 10 yards up to secure the 2-0 win. It marked Smith's eighth goal of the year to move him to the top spot on the New Mexico roster in total goals.
Diligence turned into a dogfight following Smith's goal, as six of eight total cards awarded over the course of the match came after the Lobos notched their two-goal lead. Both teams saw a single yellow card in the first half of the game and the visiting Lobos saw five more in the second half.
Two of the five went to Baldinger, which resulted in a subsequent red card and his ejection from the game just a minute after Smith's goal. New Mexico would play a man down for the remainder of the game, an invitation for Bakersfield to crash the Lobo back line hard.
The Roadrunners outshot the Lobos over the course of the game, and earned seven corner kick opportunities to the Lobos' one - but couldn't convert to score. Victor Rodriguez made three saves to get the win and his sixth shutout this year, improving to 13-0-2 with the Lobos. Bakersfield keeper Eric Shannon played a full 90 for the Roadrunners, but made no saves and dropped to 9-2-4 on the year.
"I'm really proud of our guys today. We took our chances, we defended well and we coped with a very challenging situation," head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. "We came from 55 degree, rainy weather on Friday in Seattle, traveled ten hours yesterday and played today in 90 degree heat. It was a great test of our guys' will and I was proud of them. It wasn't necessarily the soccer performance that we pride ourselves on, but we showed tons of character."
With a perfect 7-0-0 conference mark and a 15 game unbeaten streak, the longest in program history, the Lobos will return to UNM Soccer Complex for their final three games of the regular season. The team will next play host to Sacramento State on Friday at 7 p.m.