June 12, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Soccer
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In his quest to eventually play the game at the top level of professional soccer, Ben McKendry is happy with his next stop along that path - the University of New Mexico and the top level of NCAA collegiate soccer.
"I'm looking forward to the next stage," said McKendry, who has played at the international level for Canada and is coming off a season with the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Major League Soccer Reserve League.
"I don't feel I'm stepping down a level. I'll be playing high-level competitive soccer and I'll be challenged and that's what everyone wants. I've done my homework on the University of New Mexico. It's a great soccer program and a fantastic university in a great state. I'm excited."
McKendry admits that a little homework was necessary prior to committing to be a Lobo. He did some googling - including Google Map.
"I didn't know that much about New Mexico, at first," said the Vancouver, BC native. "I even had trouble finding it on the map. There were some other schools that I was in contact with, but you want the right fit with your college experience and I was sure the University of New Mexico was the right fit.
"I'm not saying I'm no longer thinking about pro soccer, but I need more time to develop. Jeremy (Fishbein) is a great coach and hopefully he will develop me more and I can stay on the path toward pro soccer."
McKendry said he stayed out of school for a year while pursuing the pro dream. He first joined the Whitecaps in September, 2010, after being a member of the club's "Prospects" program. He played on both the Whitecaps' FC Residency team and for the Whitecaps in the Premier Development League.
He made his debut this year in the MLS Reserve League on March 26 when the Whitecaps battled the Seattle Sounders FC reserves. He also will be training with the Canadian U-20 National Team this summer in Mexico City.
What the Lobo are getting is a player who has played on the international level and who also was pulled into the grassroots levels of pro soccer with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"We feel very fortunate to have Ben join our program," said Fishbein, whose Lobos went undefeated in 2011. "Ben is an excellent student and shares the values and work ethic that is the foundation of our program.
"Ben has played at the highest levels in North America as a youth player and comes from a tremendous developmental program with the Whitecaps. He has played on the Canadian U-18 and U-20 national teams and has been competing against the best soccer players in the world."
Fishbein said McKendry will compete for playing time as a midfielder and/or a defender. "I expect Ben to make an immediate impact and help challenge the team to play at the highest level," said Fishbein. "Ben is passionate about soccer and has aspirations to play professionally upon graduation."
McKendry, born and raised in Vancouver, said he grew up dreaming about pro ball, "like every other young player." Those dreams influenced his decision to join the Whitecaps organization. However, he also is smart enough to realize that maybe the best way to become a pro player is to develop his skills - and his body - at the NCAA level.
"My thoughts were with the Whitecaps and I was working toward going to their first team," said McKendry. "You think about that MSL contract, but it's not an easy thing to do.
"At my age, probably the best thing to do is move on and grow as a player and as a person. I believe that will happen at the University of New Mexico. There's nothing to say I can't come back to the Whitecaps and get a contract, but I need time to grow and develop while getting an education."
Rogers Goes International: Lobo James Rogers, a sophomore-to-be, is getting some valuable international experience as a member of the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team. On June 6, Rogers got a start as the U.S. team played the Uruguay national team in Montevideo, Uruguay. Uruguay won, 4-2. The U.S. team also lost to Uruguay, 2-0, on June 8. The American team next plays the Chile National Team.