Lobo Soccer- at UNM Soccer Complex
When: Friday at 7 p.m. (MT)
Who: No. 13 Akron Zips
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Video: Live stream available here
Weather Forecast: 82 degrees and clear
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Time for kickoff. No more exhibitions. No more friendlies. It's time to start the 2014 season in earnest, and the No. 5 UNM men's soccer team is doing so in a big way. The Lobos host No. 13 Akron at 7 p.m. Friday in the season opener for both squads.
"The energy is going to be high," head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. "We're excited to play against a top-level opponent. ... We have a very strong team with a great personality, and guys are playing for each other. It's going to be one of those games. We're ready to to get out there and get after it. I feel good about our guys."
The Zips certainly fit the bill as "top-level." In addition to producing such players as USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin, Akron is a perennial power and won the 2010 national championship. Last season the Zips won their 16th MAC regular-season title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling at Marquette in overtime.
Akron, though, must replace a lot of talent lost from last season's squad. The Zips lost nearly 85 percent of their goal scoring and 70 percent of their point production. Their leading returning scorer is sophomore midfielder Adam Najem (4 goals, 9 assists) while the rest of the returners combined to produce just one goal and nine assists. Fishbein and the Lobos, though, won't be taking them lightly.
"Akron is a team much like us," said Fishbein. "They're going to want the ball, they're going to want to break us down, they're going to want possession and they're going to want to play. They have a few special attacking players that can cause problems. It's a proud team. It's won an NCAA championship and been to a lot of Final Fours. It's a team that's coming here with every intention of being better than us. That's good. I want to play somebody like that, and we'll see first hand."
The Lobos feel like they are prepped and ready. Senior James Rogers (7G, 6A), sophomore Niko Hansen (7G, 5) and junior transfer Kevin Correa (13G, 6A) will lead the attack with Ben McKendry (5G, 1A), Oniel Fisher (1G, 2A) and 2013 C-USA Freshman of the Year Chris Wehan (3G, 1A) anchoring the midfield. The defense will be led by a trio of seniors -- team captain Mathew Gibbons alongside Nick Miele and Riley McGovern -- with another senior, Patrick Poblete, in goal.
"We want everybody out there Friday night at 7 p.m.," Fishbein said. "We need the supporters. It should be good weather. The stadium looks great. The field surface is top-notch. Everything is set up for a real barn burner Friday."
Series Record: 1-1-1
Home: 1-0-0 Away: 0-1-1; Neutral: 0-0-0
Last meeting: The only previous meeting in Albuquerque between the teams came back in 2008, a game UNM won 1-0 over the second-ranked Zip. Most recently they met on Sept. 16, 2011 in Akron. The Lobos came in ranked 16th and the Zips were No. 4 as the two sides drew 1-1.
Up Next: The Lobos will face off against UC Riverside and No. 4 UCLA in The Lobo Invitational next weekend.
C-USA FAVORITES ... The Lobos were voted by league coaches as overwhelming favorites to repeat as Conference USA regular-season champions. UNM received seven out of nine first-place votes to finish well ahead of the pack. Charlotte and UAB each also received a first-place vote and finished in second and third, respectively. Senior defender Mathew Gibbons and junior midfielder Ben McKendry were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
HERMANN WATCH LIST ... Incoming transfer Kevin Correa was named to the MAC Hermann Watch List. Last season he finished sixth in the NCAA in points per game (1.68), eighth in total points (32) and ninth in both goals (13) and goals per game (0.68).
2013 POSTSEASON IN REVIEW ... New Mexico advanced to its second College Cup in nine years in 2014 before losing to eventual national champion Notre Dame. UNM was the only non-Power Five school in the Elite Eight of last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Lobos were one of only three Sweet 16 teams from a non-Power Five conference. Additionally, the 2013 NCAA Tournament set the Lobo Soccer program apart from many of its peers. The Lobos joined UCLA and Maryland as the only three programs in the nation to earn a top 16 seed for a third-straight season. UNM was also one of just three programs in the nation to advance to a third-straight Sweet 16, along with UConn and Maryland.
A MILE HIGH AND LOUDER THAN ... The Lobos ranked eighth in the nation in attendance last season, averaging 2,121 fans for each of the team’s 12 home games in 2013. The Lobos are currently on a six-game home winning streak, including two games in the NCAA Tournament last year.
NEW LOOK LOBOS ... The Lobos must replace a lot of defensive prowess from last season’s team. In addition to attacking midfielder Michael Calderon, UNM lost goalkeeper Michael Lisch (started every game for the Lobos in 2013 and posted 11 shutouts), defensive midfielder Michael Kafari (fourth on the team in minutes played and is currently on Sporting KC’s roster), and defender Kyle Venter (the first three-time All-American in program history and the all-time leader in minutes played).
However, the Lobos return three seniors on the back end (Mathew Gibbons, Riley McGovern and Nick Miele), plus senior defender/midfielder Oniel Fisher, as well as redshirt senior goalkeeper Patrick Poblete. Poblete didn’t play last season, but in 2012 he earned a victory at No. 2 UCLA and then won the Lobos’ opening NCAA Tournament game vs. Virginia.
2013 REGULAR SEASON IN REVIEW ... The Lobos were the toast of Conference USA in their first year in the conference. UNM rattled off a C-USA mark of 7-1-1 en route to a regular season conference championship. New Mexico was honored with 13 all-conference awards, which tied a program record. Kyle Venter was the Conference USA Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the year. Coach Jeremy Fishbein won Coach of the Year honors while Christopher Wehan was the C-USA Freshman of the Year.
FISH AMONG THE BEST ... Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein continues to build his coaching legacy at New Mexico. The 2014 season is Fishbein’s 13th at the helm of Lobo Soccer. His UNM record of 168-54-28 makes him the program’s all-time winningest coach. Furthermore, Fishbein has cemented himself among the best in the nation. His 142 wins since 2004 are tied for second in the nation among all active NCAA Division I head coaches.
NCAA Active Win Leaders Since 2004
1st - Sasho Cirovski (Maryland) - 170 wins
T-2nd - Jeremy Fishbein (New Mexico) - 142 wins
T-2nd - Jay Vicovich (Wake Forest) - 142 wins
T-2nd - Tom Vom Steeg (UC Santa Barbara) - 142 wins
5th - Ray Reid (UConn) - 140 wins
6th - Elmar Bolowich (Creighton) - 139 wins
7th - George Gelnovatch (Virginia) - 135 wins
8th - Ken Lolla (Louisville) - 130 wins