Sept. 16, 2007
The 28th-ranked Lobo men's soccer team netted its biggest win of the season with a 2-1 victory over No. 9 UC Santa Barbara in the final game of the 2007 NIKE/Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational at the UNM Soccer Complex today. Senior Diego Barrera scored the game-winner in the 82nd minute to even New Mexico's record at 3-3-0 on the season.
Having already dropped two games at home for the first time since head coach Jeremy Fishbein took over for the Lobos, New Mexico desperately needed at positive result in today's match with the defending national champion Gauchos. The Lobos have struggled to score goals at home so far this season, having put just one in the net in their first three games at home. Add to that, the Gauchos boast one of the best defenders in the nation in three-time All-American and Hermann Trophy candidate Andy Iro. The Lobos put aside all of their concerns in the ninth minute when Chris Wright tucked one away from six yards out for his second goal of the year. Sophomore Stephen Brown was credited with his second assist of the year after placing a precise cross from the left side.
The game was very evenly played throughout the first half, with neither team controlling play for long periods of time. Shots were even in the first frame at seven while both teams managed just one corner in the first half. UCSB tied the game in the 29th minute after earning a free kick from 35 yards out on the near side. Jon Curry sent in a bending cross that Chris Pontius headed in for the 1-1 tie.
The Lobos almost took the lead again in the 32nd minute when sophomore Justin Davis got loose on the right side. Gaucho keeper Bryant Rueckner made a great save on the play, keeping the score knotted at 1-1 going into halftime.
UCSB came out in the second half pressuring the Lobos on offense and had two great chances in the 52nd minute. Alfonso Motagalvan took a shot in the box that Lobo keeper Mike Graczyk saved, but didn't control. Curry took another shot from the left side that Graczyk also kept from going in the net, making a diving save. Graczyk, a preseason All-American, made four great saves, all in the second half, to preserve the win.
New Mexico had a great opportunity of their own in the 65th minute on a counter attack. Barrera broke through the backline on his own left side. After carrying the ball across midfield, he fed a streaking Wright who had beaten Iro in the middle. Wright took the ball into the box on the right side, but his shot was just wide of the net.
New Mexico's game-winner was a results of what started to be a busted play. After earning a corner on the left side, Barrera tried to play the ball back to sophomore Stephen Brown. Brown wasn't looking and almost turned the ball over to UCSB in the open field. In his haste, Brown chipped in a soft cross from the left side that was easily cleared by the Gauchos. Senior Joey Vitagliano collected the loose ball on the right side and perfectly placed a cross into the middle of the box that Barrera headed home for the 2-1 win.
"I saw Diego and Brown curling in behind their defenders, so I just dropped it in behind their first two guys," stated Vitagliano. "I knew someone was going to be there, I just hoped they could get it in the net."
Things got ugly after the Lobo score as both team's benches cleared with 38 seconds left on the clock. After a lot of pushing and shoving on both sides, the referees restored order without issuing any cards to either team. UCSB tried to get the game-tying score, but the Lobo defense denied every attempt to seal the win. It is the second time a defending NCAA champion has left the UNM Soccer Complex with a loss. New Mexico defeated No. 1 Indiana 1-0 in double-overtime on Sept. 19, 2004.
UNM improves to 7-16-2 all time against top-10 teams, with three of those wins coming in Fishbein's tenure at New Mexico. Earlier in the day No. 24 Washington defeated No. 3 SMU 2-0 to win the 2007 NIKE/Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational.
New Mexico hits the road for two games next week in California. UNM travels to Cal State Northridge on Thursday, Sept. 20. UNM will also visit San Francisco on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 8:00 p.m. (M.D.T.). The Lobos' next home game is Oct. 5 against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation foe Denver.
2007 NIKE/crescent Financial Solutions Invitational
Ely Allen - Washington
Kevin Forrest - Washington
Taylor Hoss - Washington
Taylor Mueller - Washington
Simon Ejdemyr - New Mexico
Diego Barrera - New Mexico
Mike Porter - New Mexico
Ciaran O'Brien - UC Santa Barbara
Eric Avila - UC Santa Barbara
Jeff Harwell - SMU
Ryan Mirsky - SMU