Stevens: Lobo Men's Soccer Spring Season Review
May 23, 2012
New Mexico Men's Soccer -- 2012 Spring Review
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To say that it wasn't important for Jeremy Fishbein's Lobos to go undefeated against collegiate competition in the spring season is to suggest that you don't understand the competitive core that drives this program, its coach, and its players.
These Lobos don't like to lose. You roll a soccer ball onto the pitch and there is nothing friendly about this pack of Lobos.
Sure, spring ball has others values and other goals not reflected on a scoreboard. It is a time to plug a few holes, look for new leaders, build team chemistry, find team personality, and develop younger players.
But Fishbein's Lobos don't work as hard as they work to finish second place on the board. It's not in their DNA.
"You can always minimize the importance of winning spring matches," said Fishbein. "But we have such a competitive group of players, who take so much pride in success that we like to say there are really no `friendly' games. Our guys play to win.
"It's not the end of the world if you lose in the spring, but our guys work at such a high level and that high level includes the drive to win. That drive is a good thing. I believe it carries over to the fall where the scoreboard matters."
The spring scoreboards - no surprise! - favored the Lobos. They beat UC Irvine 3-0, beat UNLV 1-0, beat Air Force 1-0, beat SMU 2-1 in overtime, and twice slapped down Fort Lewis College, 2-1 (OT) and 1-0.
The UNLV win was the final match of the spring season and Fishbein used a lot of younger Lobos in that 60-minute match. But there was still an emphasis on excellence and high-level effort.
"We like to turn up the heat a little bit for the younger guys in the spring and let them understand the expectations of the program and of their teammates," said Fishbein. "In the fall, it only gets tougher."
Usually, spring ball in soccer is an incomplete science because teams are looking at the incoming freshman class to fill holes and provide depth. Fishbein will have some additional data (talent) to work with in the fall, but he says, "The meat and potatoes of this team are our returning players."
The Lobos lost two key seniors in Lance Rozeboom and Michael Green off their undefeated 2011 (18-0-4) team. Those losses hurt as the two four-year starters were both talented enough to be drafted into pro soccer. But Fishbein also returns the bulk of that UNM team that soared to No. 1 in the national rankings.
"Those are big shoes to fill," said Fishbein of Rozeboom and Green. "But we have some guys who have been waiting in the wings and didn't see the minutes they would have liked to see with those guys ahead of them.
"And we have five seniors-to-be in Blake Smith, Devon Sandoval, Levi Rossi, Travis Campbell and Victor Rodriguez, who have switched to a higher gear probably in expectation of their final season. They are setting an example."
In the spring season, Fishbein and his staff were able to look at two new Lobos, who enrolled at UNM for that semester: Michael Calderon (Fairleigh Dickenson University) and Joe Harris (New Zealand). There will be at least four more freshmen joining the team for the fall semester.
"We expect some of the new guys will step in and complement what we have returning," said Fishbein.
New Mexico's spring season marked the end of the 2011-12 school year, but the spring season is more a look ahead to future campaigns. Fishbein did some shifting to replace Rozeboom and Green. He likely will do some more shifting in the fall.
"The games in the spring aren't a conclusion of the fall season," said Fishbein. "It's the beginning of our next season. When you lose players, you are forming a new team with new players and a new identity.
"We have a talented, cohesive group and I think we accomplished our goals this spring. We played quite well and we have a great feel for where we're at. It was a smooth spring, but the pressure of the fall isn't there in the spring."
2012 Spring Games:
Lobos 1, Air Force: Blake Smith scored with under a minute left to break a scoreless tie and give UNM a win in front of over 1,200 fans at Taos Eco Park.
Lobos 2, SMU 1: Blake Smith tied the game at 1-1 on a penalty kick with about eight minutes to play and then scored again in overtime to hand UNM the win in Dallas. SMU reached the scoreboard on an own-goal by UNM.
Lobos 2, Fort Lewis 1; Lobos 1, Fort Lewis 0: UNM got a game-winner from Devon Sandoval in overtime to win 2-1. Nick Miele scored a header to give UNM a 1-0 lead. In Game Two, Josh Dye scored the winner off a pass from James Rogers.