Feb. 1, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --- As a historic 2011 season came to a close for the New Mexico Lobo men's soccer team in Tampa this past November, the subsequent off-season commenced for just about everyone.
Except for the coaching staff.
In college soccer, building a program is a year-round process, with a foundation that is based on solid recruiting.
Recruiting is also, fittingly, a year-round process. At the Division I level, there is no dead period for recruiting, which simply means one thing. If you're not out recruiting players, someone else is.
Lobo head coach Jeremy Fishbein and his staff have been hard at work scouring the talent pool nationally and internationally for new additions to the roster. Spearheading the recruiting efforts for the Lobos are associate head coach Paul Souders and assistant coach Brandon Moss, who have worked relentlessly in a coast-to-coast search for players who exemplify the prestige of Lobo soccer.
"It's easy to recruit at a place that you've become whole-heartedly invested in," Souders said. "I think that's the attitude that all three of us have - our facilities, our fans, the whole environment, it's the best in the country. We go into the process knowing that if we can get a guy to visit, the place will sell itself."
Souders' outsider perspective is complimented by Moss' experience as a former player under Fishbein at New Mexico. Moss was on the Lobo roster from 2002-2005 and saw great success in helping the Lobos to the 2005 College Cup championship game. He then went on to play professional soccer in the MLS before making his return to the coaching staff in 2009.
"Brandon's unwavering belief that this place is the best in the country has made me a better recruiter," Souders said. "He lived it as a player, which gives him great insight as a part of this staff."
"For me, it's easy to recruit at a school that I have so much confidence and pride in, and history with," Moss explained. "I am living proof of the product that we have at UNM.
"This recruiting period, we believe that the players we're bringing in reflect the characteristics of this team better than anyone else in the country," Moss continued. "Sometimes I think that team chemistry is, in certain cases, more valuable than talent. All early indicators are that these players have both the talent and the potential for team chemistry that will help us to continue having the success that we've had over the past 10 years."
"Paul [Souders] and Moss have done a great job with this recruiting class. They've really dedicated themselves to every aspect of the recruiting process, and no one understands the qualities that Lobo soccer looks for in a player better than these two. They have done an incredible job in assembling a recruiting class comprised of players who will be tremendous representatives of the university, the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico."
Jeremy Fishbein, Head Men's Soccer Coach
The rigors of a recruiting lifestyle are not lost on Fishbein, who will enter his 11th season as the Lobos' head soccer coach in the fall. Over the course of his tenure at New Mexico, Fishbein has signed several players from New Zealand and Europe in addition to the local talent that he says is the program's benchmark.
"Paul [Souders] and Moss have done a great job with this recruiting class," Fishbein said. "They've really dedicated themselves to every aspect of the recruiting process, and no one understands the qualities that Lobo soccer looks for in a player better than these two.
"They have done an incredible job in assembling a recruiting class comprised of players who will be tremendous representatives of the university, the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico. Each of these student-athletes is committed to excellence in the classroom, in the community and on the playing field."
Thanks to the dedication of the entire coaching staff, the program will welcome five newcomers to the ranks for the 2012 season, including three NLI signees, a DI transfer and an international player out of New Zealand.
Charles Klepac - Freshman - Forward/Midfield - Flora Vista, N.M./Farmington HS
At the club level, Klepac played the past two seasons with the Rush Argonauts, helping his team to the 2010 state championship title, and the 2011 region and state titles. He also represented the Far West region at the USYSA national championships.
He was a two-time All-State player at Farmington High School, helping his team to the 2011 4A State Championship title. A committed player on the field and in the classroom, Klepac was honored academically at Farmington every year from 2008-2011.
Klepac was born on Sept. 18, 1993 and is the son of Juraj and Joanna Klepac. He has two brothers - Anthony (19) and Jerg (17) - and two sisters - Alex (21) and Cepria (20). He intends to major in international relations at UNM.
"We're really excited to have another high quality student-athlete from New Mexico join our program," Fishbein said of Klepac. "CJ has excelled in the classroom and on the playing field both for Farmington High School and also for the Rush Argonauts.
"He makes great decisions on the ball, he's passionate about the game, and we feel that his best soccer is still ahead of him."
Christopher Wehan - Freshman - Forward - Laguna Niguel, CA./Aliso Niguel HS
Wehan played with United FC for five years, claiming championship titles in the U19 Premier League, the Cal South National Cup and twice in the Far West Regional League. He was also a U18 Far West Regional finalist. He spent one year with the Cal South Olympic Development Program (ODP) team and earned a Region IV championship title.
A forward native to southern California, Wehan was a three-year varsity starter for Aliso Niguel High School. Named captain his junior and senior years, Wehan was also twice-named the team's Best Attacker (2009-2010) and earned his first all-league honor following his sophomore year. He was named first-team all-league and third-team all CIF after his junior year. A member of the OCVarsity.com "Dream Team" for 2012, Wehan was a scholar-athlete his sophomore year and earned the Aliso Niguel High School "Espirit de Wolverine" award his freshman and junior years.
Born Jan. 29, 1994 to Julianne and Mike Wehan, Christopher has five siblings - Garrett (22), Patrick (19), Sarah (16), Clare (14) and Charlie (13).
"Chris is one of the most technical and intelligent players we've run across in our recruiting," Fishbein said. "We've seen him play for two different club teams in southern California, and he's excelled in a wide range of positions and formations.
"He's very crafty on the ball and has a tremendous work rate. We expect him to be a real fan favorite."
Nicholas Rochowski - Freshman - Defender - Flower Mound, Texas/Flower Mound HS
At the club level, Rochowski played in the USSF Development Academy from 2008 - 2012 with FC Dallas. His team took first place in the Texas division twice, and his 2011 team was a DA finalist and Dallas Cup semi-finalist.
Named one of ESPN High School's top 150 graduates for 2012, the defender out of Flower Mound, Texas, was also named an ESPN Rise top defender in 2012. He was also invited by Real Madrid to play friendlies in Spain in 2011, and invited by Ajax to play in the Aegon Future Cup in Amsterdam in 2010.
Rochowski was born Oct. 3, 1993 in New York to Gene and Sandi Rochowski. He is a volunteer soccer camp coach and intends to major in physical therapy at UNM. His brother Matthew plays for Solar Soccer Club.
"Nick's a guy that we've been watching for a couple of years now; we feel that he's playing on one of the best club teams in the country with FC Dallas," Fishbein said of Rochowski. "He's in a professional environment every day surrounded by professional players, and has excelled not only on the field but also as a student.
"He comes from a family that's very passionate about soccer. Not only will he bring a tremendous skill set to our program, but he's also a great leader.
Michael Calderon - Junior - Midfield - San Jose, Costa Rica/Fairleigh Dickenson University
Last season, Calderon started nine games for the FDU Knights and appeared in 15, logging one goal on the season. Calderon started in 13 of the Knights' 17 contests in 2010 and was named top offensive rookie after his debut season. He scored his first career goal in 1-1 tie at home against Robert Morris on Oct. 15, and his second career goal the following match in 1-0 home victory over Saint Francis PA on Oct. 17. He was named the NEC Player and Rookie of the Week for his efforts, as well as to College Soccer News' National Team of the Week.
The son of Maurician Calderon and Rosibel Gonzalez, Michael was born Dec. 6, 1988 in San Jose, Costa Rica. He intends to major in exercise science at UNM.
"Michael has already played two years collegiately at Fairleigh Dickenson University, and has seen success not only at the collegiate level but also at the club level in his native Costa Rica. He was developed as a player in a professional environment and has a great deal of ambition both in the classroom and on the playing field.
"He is extremely technical, has great game awareness and will complement our returning players," Fishbein finished.
Calderon said that winning mentality of the Lobo soccer team is something that drew him to the program. That, coupled with the university's quality facilities and the community's dedication to the soccer program drew the transfer student to New Mexico from FDU.
"Spring training so far has been hard, but the team has been great. The guys are always motivating each other, which is helpful," Calderon said.
Joe Harris - Freshman - Midfield - Wellington, New Zealand/Kapiti College
Harris was a two-time semi-finalist at the Malcolm Cowie Cup in 2009 and the Trident Tournament in 2010. He was named the MVP as the team's top scorer with eight goals in 2010 as well as in 2011 when he logged seven goals. He helped his team to the Wellington Division II championship title in 2010 and the Division III title in 2009, and received the College Sport Wellington Sportsperson of the Year award.
During his club career, Harris played club football for Wellington United, helping his team to the Central Premier Championship title in 2011. He served as his team's captain for his U-17 team attending the Dallas Cup in 2010 and played in the ASB Premiership with Manawatu during the 2010-11 season. Also in 2010 and 2011, Harris was a national youth league semi-finalist with Team Wellington Youth.
Born on June 8, 1993 to Clare and Guy Harris, Joe intends to major in history or international studies at UNM. He has one younger brother, Jacob (16).
"Harris is a guy that we've been in communication with for the past year," Fishbein said. "I watched him play eight months ago and was just very impressed with his desire, tenacity and his commitment.
"He is a guy who knows nothing but success in anything that he takes part in, and we expect him to thrive in our environment."
Harris claimed that meeting Coach Fishbein in July made his decision to come to New Mexico an easy one.
"Since I've been here, I've just been blown away," Harris admitted. "The facilities and everything in general have been beyond what I expected.
"The guys are really welcoming and made sure I got settled in. Training so far has been hard, but I'm enjoying it, I'm excited to be here.
The Lobo men's soccer program is a testament to the fact that the work done in the offseason translates to the field in the fall. The coaching staff has always been incredibly diligent in the recruiting process, and the result is a prestigious and successful program that's well known throughout the nation. Coach Fishbein and his staff expect nothing less as they look ahead to the remainder of the spring season and into next fall.