The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team will be facing former players when it hits the pitch on Saturday in a UNM Alumni match.
The game will be New Mexico's fourth of a six-game slate during the spring schedule and the Lobos are still looking for their first win.
New Mexico squared off against Phoenix Rising, the Denver Pioneers and Air Force to begin spring play. Despite arguably playing well, particularly in the first half all three of the matches, the Lobos have only scored once — conceding a total of 10 goals overall.
The inability to score goals is something that has been has been plaguing the Lobos since last season, and might be overshadowing some of the other qualities the team appears to possess. UNM has often been able to maintain possession and control the pace of the game, but just can't seem to find the back of the net enough to come away with wins.
In fact, the Lobos are winless in their last nine games dating back to last season — losing six games, while forcing three draws in that span. The last New Mexico victory came back in October in a 2-0 shutout win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Although the focus of spring soccer is typically geared more on player development than it is on wins and losses, New Mexico could have a good opportunity to implement some strategies against the Alumni, presumably with less tension then there would normally be in a match.
The Lobo have seen several key players depart since the conclusion of the 2017 season, including top goal-scorer Aaron Herrera, along with Sam Gleadle, Jason Beaulieu and Alex Vedamanikam — all of whom signed professional contracts.
However, four new players are also being added to the program — Maliek Howell of Jamaica, Carlton McKenzie of England, Colin Brezniak of Pennsylvania and Matthew Puig of Oklahoma. In addition, the Lobos also signed 12 other players to National Letters of Intent.
Apart from Howell, the other new players are involved in the attacking side of the game, as McKenzie and Puig are forwards, while Brezniak plays as an attacking midfielder.
It is likely that head coach Jeremy Fishbein and the rest of the coaching staff could continue to shuffle the lineups as the game progresses to evaluate talent, as has been the case in the first three matches, perhaps trying to get the newer players to settle in and find their role.
The Lobos would probably like to see some production from their attackers and midfielders early on. That could take some pressure of the goal keeper and defenders and might prevent the team from having to play from behind.
Saturday's match against the alumni is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. The Lobos will finish up their spring season with away games to face UC Irvine and San Diego State on April 21 and 22, respectively.
Ajinkya Patil is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ajinkyapatil_16