Stevens: Lobos Win In a 1-0 Grind Over Air Force
Oct. 16, 2011
New Mexico Lobo Men's Soccer - At The Lobo Soccer Complex
Sunday: New Mexico Lobos 1, Air Force Academy 0
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The New Mexico Lobos went from a cakewalk into an eggbeater of a grind, but the end result Sunday at the Lobo Soccer Complex was perfect. Coach Jeremy Fishbein's Lobos beat Air Force 1-0 to remain undefeated on the season. UNM walked over Denver 6-0 on Friday.
"Air Force is a tough and disciplined group," said Lobo Lance Rozeboom, who scored the winning and only goal at 27:37 of the first half on a penalty kick. "We made it a goal to come out grinding and fighting."
Really, that was a good thing. The Air Force Falcons came out grinding and fighting, too. For sure, this was a defensive battle as UNM got off 13 shots and Air Force fired 10 at the New Mexico goal. The Falcons outshot the Lobos 6-5 in the second 45 minutes and earned two yellow cards for their physical play.
"It was a tough game," said Fishbein. "It wasn't the performance that we trained for, but we had the composure to win the game.
"This wasn't a game we needed to make difficult. We made some young mistakes, but we weren't punished (for them). The lesson is when you are playing big games, when it gets to the NCAA Tournament and single elimination, you can't make mistakes."
The NCAA tourney might be a few Lobo wins and a few weeks away, but the No. 6-ranked Lobos - undefeated at 11-0-2 - are charging down on at least an at-large bid. They also are making a charge at a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title with their unblemished league mark of 5-0-0.
The Lobos still have five league games remaining in 2011 - the next two on the road and the last three in Albuquerque. The MPSF postseason tourney is set for Nov. 10-13 in Denver. The NCAA playoffs come the following week.
The difference on the scoreboard Sunday vs. Air Force came when Rozeboom stood looking at a penalty kick and blasted it past Falcon keeper Matt Underwood, who made six saves when the game clock was moving. UNM keeper Victor Rodriguez had three saves.
"This was a game in which they weren't going to beat us. We could only beat ourselves," said Fishbein. "Air Force knows how to make it difficult. I have a lot of respect for that program. They didn't roll over, that's for sure."
The Lobos have a lot of reasons to stay hot the rest of the season, but a glance into the stands at the Lobo Soccer Complex reflected an advantage the Lobos have during the regular season. It's also an advantage UNM wants to take advantage of should the Lobos reach NCAA play.
The stands were packed with Lobo loyals - 4,781. The Lobos are hoping that a strong finish to the regular season will earn them some home-field advantage in postseason play.
"The support of the community has been great and that's what drives the guys," said Fishbein. "It's tremendous. We appreciate them, but we also have an obligation to play really good soccer for them."
So far in 2011, the Lobo soccer has been better than good. It's been undefeated.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org