The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team announced the signing of 12 new recruits for the 2018 recruiting class, including five players from New Mexico. With this class, the Lobos add three players with US youth national team experience.
"I want to thank Coach Graczyk and Coach Altman for their tireless efforts in bringing in an incredible class, all the credit goes to them," head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. "These players share the values of our program and are all great students from wonderful families. They will mature into impactful leaders in their communities. In sharing the values of our program: academic, community and athletic excellence, these players represent what our state, university and athletic department stand for."
The class is headlined by midfielder Erik “Gallo” Virgen, defender Glademir “Pichu” Mendoza and goalie Alex Fetterly as all three have represented the United States at the youth level.
Virgen comes to New Mexico via the Real Salt Lake academy in Tucson, Arizona. He has competed with the national team at both the U15 and U18 levels and is a three time captain of the RSL U.S. Soccer Development Academy team and was named Generation Adidas MVP in 2014.
By signing with the Lobos and going to college, Virgen is fulfilling a lifelong dream.
"The coaches at UNM have always been good to me and it has always been a dream of mine to go to college,” Virgen said in a release. “That has been the dream for my family as well and I really felt like UNM was the right place for me."
Virgen is another in a long line of Real Salt Lake Academy alumni to join the Lobos, and Fishbein is excited to have him.
"Gallo is joining his club teammate Pichu as a Lobo and is another RSL academy alum,” Fishbein said in a release. “A true leader and relentless midfielder, he's got an engine, knows how to find the ball and is an incredible two-way player with the heart of a lion. This is a wonderful kid who oozes passion and I can't wait to see Gallo in a Lobo uniform."
Mendoza, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is another player out of the Real Salt Lake academy, and was twice named a the U16 Best Starting IX member. He has represented the US at both the U18 and U20 levels. Both Mendoza and Virgen were in preseason camp with the Real Salt Lake first team.
"It's an amazing school with a great atmosphere, Mendoza said in a release. “The soccer quality is good and it develops players for a successful career on and off the field."
The final member of the trio who have represented the US at the youth level is Fetterly, who comes from The Woodlands, Texas. He graduated high school last year and took a gap year in order to improve his game. He has competed for both Houston Dynamo USSDA and Texas Rush USSDA. He was called up to the U18 team camp in 2017.
"Alex is one of the most talented goalkeepers in the country,” Fishbein said in a release. “He has been involved in the US national team youth program and took a gap year this year to refine his skills. He is an excellent student, a leader and a hard worker. Alex comes across as a quiet kid, but once you get to know him, you quickly get a feel for his wit and intelligence."
Not all of the members of this year’s class will join the team right away. Larsen Rogers, a native of Albuquerque, will first complete a two year mission for the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints and join the team in the spring of 2020. He served as team captain for his high school side at Volcano Vista.
"Larsen is a driven, enthusiastic player with an outstanding work rate who loves to compete,” Fishbein said in a release. “We've watched Larsen for several years and we feel that he is going to be an impactful player for our program in the future. His leadership and competitive nature makes everyone around him better. He won't be joining our team until Spring 2020, but we're really excited for him that he is able to fulfill his mission over the next two years."
In addition to the 12 signees, the Lobos also added transfers Colin Brezniak and Matthew Puig this winter. Both Puig and Brezniak are already enrolled and will play their first games for New Mexico during the spring schedule, which begins March 10 against USL side Phoenix Rising FC.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer and softball but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.