Oct. 1, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- Simply stated, the Lobos are a second half team. In fact, they may actually be becoming the official definition of a second half team. New Mexico has now gone five straight games in which they’ve scored all of their goals in the final 45, amassing a 4-0-1 record over those five games.
The ninth-ranked Lobos’ most recent victory came at the expense of the UNLV Rebels on Saturday night in a 2-1 decision that kicked off Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) conference play. It marked the fourth come-from-behind effort for New Mexico in its last five games, and the Lobos’ third come-from behind victory. UNM has now not scored a first-half goal in nearly a full month, since its Sept. 9 contest against Columbia.
Riding a five-game losing streak, the Rebels were hurting for a win headed in to Saturday night’s game. They were on the hunt from the get-go, and caught the Lobos on their heels early. Salvador Bernal netted his first goal of the season, collecting a pass from Julian Portugal and blasting it upper ninety on Victor Rodriguez for the 1-0 lead in the 11th minute.
For some teams, a 1-0 deficit can be deflating, if not devastating. Not for New Mexico, and definitely not for Kyle Venter.
Labeled a "team linchpin" by College Soccer News last week, the sophomore came up big for New Mexico with his third tying goal of the season, coming into the box from the center back position to convert a corner kick in the 54th minute. Venter challenged Rebel keeper Ryan Harding in the air, getting his head on a free ball for his third goal of the season. Blake Smith was credited with the assist.
Less than three minutes later, redshirt freshman Carson Baldinger scored his first career goal on a pass from Devon Sandoval to secure the win for New Mexico. Baldinger banged a shot from the middle of the box off the right post to put the Lobos up 2-1 with 32 minutes to play.
“This was a game that we knew was going to be a challenge,” head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. “The environment, Las Vegas, with the lights, the strip, airplanes coming in over the field – you have to have a lot of focus. UNLV hadn’t been off to a good start, but they’ve been close every game, so this was their chance. It was a new season, everyone in the conference was even, and they scored an early goal against the run of play.
“They kind of went into a defensive shell after that and put ten guys behind the ball,” Fishbein continued. “They challenged us mentally, but we made a few changes at halftime and started playing very nicely. We scored a couple of second half goals to take control, they came at us but our defense held. It wasn’t a full 90 minute performance, but it was a good result.”
Rodriguez improved to 7-0-2 with the win, making one save on the day. Harding notched four saves on the night but took the loss, as the Rebels fell to 1-7-0 overall and 0-1-0 in conference play.
The Lobos will play on the road against next weekend, taking on Denver and Air Force on Friday and Sunday respectively before playing host to both teams the following weekend at the UNM Soccer Complex.