Oct. 5, 2012
Air Force Falcons 1, New Mexico Lobos 0 (OT)
Sunday: 1 p.m., Lobos vs. Denver - UNM Soccer Complex
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By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In soccer, goals often come quickly in random moments of frenzied opportunity and when the net is violated, it often is as shocking as a lightening bolt on water.
The No. 5 ranked New Mexico Lobos were shocked 1-0 in overtime Friday night by the defensive-minded Air Force Falcons, who got offensive with 6:23 left to play in the extra period.
The frenzied moment was created by a long throw-in that New Mexico keeper Victor Rodriguez punched, but didn't punch hard enough or far enough.
"I punched the ball and it wasn't the best punch on my part," said Rodriguez. "I feel I should have done a little better with it. They got a lucky break there; one of those things that kind of happen."
The punch was more of a jab than a Mike Tyson left hook. The soccer ball bounced around in front of the UNM net and sort of drizzled in front of Air Force's Caleb Downey, who pounced on the ball and the opportunity to muscle the ball off a UNM defender and past Rodriquez.
It was Downey's second goal of his career. He scored his first goal against the Lobos, too -- two years ago as a freshman in a 3-2 Falcon win in Albuquerque.
"I think it's a real reality check today," said Lobo Coach Jeremy Fishbein of the shutout loss on New Mexico turf. "They (Lobos) got beat by a good team with very committed, disciplined players. That's a good team with a lot of pride and I have to compliment them.
"They (Lobos) got outworked and the other team competed harder than us. We thought it was going to come easy."
The recent history of these two teams suggests that nothing comes easy when Falcons and Lobos tangle on the pitch. The previous five games between UNM and Air Force also were decided by one goal.
The Lobos also learned a lesson about allowing a team to hang around. The Falcons hunkered down on the defensive end and patiently waited for offensive opportunities. Downey's opportunity officially came at 93:41.
"I thought they played it how you should play it against us," said Fishbein. "They played smart. They said, `We're going to be good on defense. We're going to get some chances in counters and get some chances on set pieces.'
"That's how they won the game. A deep throw-in in our half is a set piece for all intents and purposes.
"We didn't deserve to win."
The loss snapped New Mexico's regular-season home winning streak of 13 games. It also stopped the Lobos Lobos from tying the program's streak of 18 home games without a loss. UNM's last regular season home loss was on October 10, 2010 to Air Force. The Lobos and the Falcons played in front of 3,205 fans Friday at the UNM Soccer Complex.
The Lobos are now 8-2-0 and needing a win Sunday over Denver to slow any drop in the national rankings - always important when it comes to postseason seeding and home-field advantages. Air Force is 5-5-1 and 2-0-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation race. UNM is 1-1-0 in league play.
"I think over the course of time, this is a good thing, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow," said Fishbein.
The defensive-minded Falcons gave the Lobos a lot of opportunities to attack as there was little Air Force pressure at the midfield. However, the box was a different creature as the Falcons gave the Lobos little space in which to create - and then got physical when the ball came into the box.
"We let it become a battle instead of a soccer game," said Fishbein. "We were going to beat them by being a good team, moving the ball and creating our chances and we didn't do it.
"Our attacking players were pretty average. We didn't create good chances and we weren't finishing."
The Lobos finished the game with 15 shots and four shots on goal. The Falcons had eight shots with two on goal - and one winner. Falcon keeper Matt Underwood had four saves and Rodriguez had one.
The two teams' all-time series record is now 19-18-1 - in Air Force's favor. However, Coach Fishbein is now 14-4-1 vs. Air Force.
"We have to move on. We have a game on Sunday and we have to play a lot better," said Rodriguez. "Everyone has to be better on Sunday.
"Maybe this is what we needed. I don't think we have played to our potential the past few games. We have to work with the mentality that nothing is going to come easy."
First Half: New Mexico Lobos 0, Air Force Falcons 0
The first half wasn't exactly thrilling soccer thanks to Air Force hunkering down on defense. If the Falcons had a strategy for their upset bid over No. 5 New Mexico, it probably was to hope for a breakaway goal on one end and beat the Lobos with numbers on the back side.
The Falcons came into Albuquerque with the MPSF's poorest scoring offense with seven goals in 10 games. However, the Falcons also came in with three shutout wins. They got a fourth Friday night at UNM's expense.
Air Force took one shot in the first half. The Lobos managed four, had one on-goal and James Rogers had one good look, but missed wide. His shot came with about ten minutes to play and came off a UNM attack down the right side that ended with the ball being centered to Rogers. His booming shot went wide to the far side.
Rogers had an earlier look just under the 20 minute mark. He one touched a long pass but, running at full speed at a fast-rolling ball, could only send a shot high over the Air Force net.
Rogers got off three of UNM's four shots in the first half and had the one shot on-goal. The Lobos had a single corner kick. Air Force had seven fouls and UNM had five.