Sept. 16, 2011
AKRON, Ohio --- True Lobo fans know that their team is never out of it.
Time and again, when the situation looks to be in dire straits, the New Mexico men’s soccer squad finds a way to deliver. And for the second consecutive game, their delivery has come in the form of sophomore Kyle Venter.
The 6-3 center back scored his second goal of the season Friday night in what is seemingly becoming his own true fashion. Venter cleaned up a loose ball in the box in the 81st minute of play to knot the contest 1-1 and keep the Lobos’ unbeaten streak alive at six after two additional overtime periods.
New Mexico played dominant soccer through the first 30 minutes, possessing the ball with poise and consistently pressuring and attacking the Akron defensive line. It seemed only a matter of time before the Lobos would capitalize after multiple opportunities knocking on the door. They out-shot the Zips in the first half four to two, and garnered three corner-kick opportunities to Akron’s one.
Yet it was that lone first-half corner that allowed the Zips to find the back of the net first. Michael Balogun converted the cross in the 37th minute to put the Zips on top 1-0 and put head Coach Caleb Porter’s team in a very familiar scenario. Prior to Friday, Porter had maintained a record of 61-0-0 over six seasons at Akron when leading at halftime.
Selected as FOX Soccer Channel’s Game of the Week, the contest between the reigning national champion Zips and the challenging, no. 16 Lobos reeked of anticipation from the get-go. Both teams knew that they were playing for a grander audience than what was present at Cub Cadet Field, but the turbulent crowd of 4,301 – the third largest in school history – was raucous from the start and fueled by Akron’s lead.
With the stadium packed with blue and gold clad fans and the Zips continuing to mount an attack, momentum seemed to be swinging for Akron in a big way.
A tenacious game turned physical as the two teams racked up a combined fifteen fouls, four yellow cards and a red card to Akron forward Darren Mattocks. The Zips, forced afterward to play a man down from the 58th minute on, peppered Lobo keeper Victor Rodriguez with six shots to New Mexico’s three in the second half. This included a a series of three Akron shots within a 13-second window that warranted saving efforts from the entire Lobo defense. Rodriguez also narrowly avoided an own-goal that came off of a mis-clear by a teammate.
Yet the Lobos remained resilient -- folding under pressure was never an option.
In its second straight game New Mexico came up big in the final 10 minutes of regulation, as Venter’s header off of Devon Sandoval’s assist secured the 1-1 tie. It worked to hand Porter his first no-decision to come at Akron after his team was leading at halftime.
Both teams had their chances in the overtime periods. Levi Rossi had a header opportunity off of a cross from Matt Gibbons in the final minute of the first OT, while Akron’s Akeil Barrett’s sole shot in the second overtime went wide in the first minute of the second overtime. In the end, the hard-fought battle culminated in a 110-minute no decision.
Rodriguez finished the game having tallied two saves, while Akron’s David Meves made one. Barrett led Akron with three shots, one of which fell on net, while Venter and freshman James Rogers each logged two shots apiece for UNM.
“Our program is about being the best program in the country, and we didn’t come out here to tie the game,” head coach Jeremy Fishbein said post-game. “We expect to win these games, so we’re just disappointed that we had an opportunity to win this game that we didn’t capitalize on.
“At the same time I’m proud of our guys. We came back from a goal down, dealt with a challenging atmosphere, and showed maturity and confidence,” he continued. “The guys aren’t happy, they’re disappointed, and that’s an understandable reaction. Our program is made up of a group of guys who aren’t content to tie.”
The Lobos will use Saturday as a recovery day before taking on the Syracuse Orange in their final game of the tournament on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The Orange dropped their first game to Cal Poly 2-1 earlier Friday evening.
“The challenge in these types of games is to get to know yourself better,” Fishbein explained. “This game against Akron gave us a chance to assess our strengths and weaknesses. Our challenge now is to recover properly, relax a little bit tomorrow, and focus on what will be a challenging game on Sunday against Syracuse.”
LiveStats for Sunday's game are available at the following link: