Stevens: Midair Dramatics Produce Winning Header From Levi Rossi
Oct. 30, 2011
New Mexico Lobo Men's Soccer - At The Lobo Soccer Complex
Sunday: New Mexico Lobos 1, San Jose State 0
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a goal in which instant replay would have come in handy because when Lobos Devon Sandoval and Levi Rossicrashed in midair in pursuit of a cross, there were a lot of heads chasing the ball and - yes - there was a midair crash.
That crash included a few San Jose State defenders, who also went high to get into the fray.
One thing was certain - there was no need for instant replay to zoom in on the dramatics that accompanied the soccer ball as it fell in front of the San Jose State net with under three minutes to play. Sandoval went up. Rossi went up. And heads collided with heads - and ball.
The ball ended up in the San Jose net with two minutes and 14 seconds to play.
As to which Lobo got the winning goal? Well, at first it was credited to Sandoval, who wasn't exactly sure if he hit ball or Rossi's head - or both. Later, it was determined that Rossi got the touch and the game-winner, but he paid a small price for his heroics.
He was rubbing his head after the goal that kept No. 1 ranked UNM undefeated on the season at 15-0-2 and one game away from completing the regular season unbeaten. UNM finishes the season at home against UNLV on Saturday, Nov. 5.
"We're confident that even if it's in the last five minutes of the game, we're going to put one in," said Sandoval. "We've been scoring plenty of goals this year and we don't have any doubts we're going to score."
Said Lobo Mathew Gibbons: "We do what we can to control the game, but in the last five, ten minutes there is a sense of urgency. I don't think any of the boys wanted to go into overtime."
There might have been a few doubters - or worriers - in the crowd of 3,759 which watched San Jose try to knock UNM from the unbeaten ranks and away from the No. 1 ranking. The Lobos had chances, but they couldn't get the ball past SJSU keeper Jonathan Lester, who had seven saves.
"The doubts were that something weird would happen," said Lobo Coach Jeremy Fishbein. "We played well, but their keeper had a great game. I felt it was coming.
"The only way they were going to get something was off one of our mistakes. We played pretty well today. I felt confident. You aren't going to put teams away every game. This was a good team and nothing is going to come easy."
San Jose State's strategy including packing it in on defense and looking for counters, trying to catch the UNM defense napping. But you don't climb to the No. 1 spot in the nation by taking time off.
"We had two excellent chances early that we didn't finish," said Fishbein. "That would have changed the game because they would have had to come out quite a bit. They sat in a little bit (on defense). We dealt with it."
The Lobos ended with 18 shots with eight of them on goal. San Jose State launched 10 times with three ending up in Lobo keeper Victor Rodiquez's hands.
"Our defense is great," said Sandoval. "Everybody on the team works extremely hard and there are 11 guys defending at all times."
If the Lobos win their season finale on Nov. 5 (Senior Night) vs. UNLV at the Lobo Soccer Complex, New Mexico should carry the No. 1 ranking into the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament set for Nov. 10-13 in Denver. The Lobos have earned a first-round bye to the semifinals.
"It would be nice to be No. 1, but our goal is to play good every single game and as long as we are playing well, the results should be there," said Sandoval.
Said Gibbons: "The No. 1 ranking is nice, but the national championship is our real goal. You always want to go undefeated obviously, but the No. 1 spot at the end is what we are aiming for."
Said Fishbein: "The guys are dealing with the (No. 1 ranking) quite well and approaching each game as a set of new challenges."
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