The University of New Mexico men's soccer team picked up a big win in its season opener, taking down No. 22 Seattle by a count of 4-2 at the UNM Soccer Complex as one new member to the team left his footprint on the match.
In Friday's match against Seattle, he dished out an assist on the team's first goal of the season and put the ball in the net twice himself — racking up five points in his Lobo debut. And his efforts were recognized on Monday as New Mexico forward Matt Puig, a sophomore transfer, was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week, a release said.
But receiving individual accolades is nothing new to the Oklahoma native, as Puig said he had taken home player of the week honors before while playing as a freshman at Tulsa University. He is a prolific scorer that seems to have a knack for being in position to make good things happen — one of many reasons head coach Jeremy Fishbein probably wanted to see him in a Lobo jersey.
"It's been a great fit so far," Puig said. "Antoine (Vial), Omar (Grey) and I are all natural goal scorers and that's kind of what we are here for."
He said Fishbein had the players in great condition throughout the summer and was happy they have the chance to start producing and showing how good they can be.
The sophomore probably couldn't have asked for a much better start to his Lobo career. In the first half of the Seattle match, he was weaving his way through some heavy traffic — regaining his balance after he was nearly tripped up — and dropped off a pass that senior teammate Antoine Vial blasted past the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Just minutes later, Puig netted his first goal as Lobo. The score appeared to come off a set piece in which Tom Smart sent the ball into the box, which Grey headed over to Puig to finish from point-blank range — burying the ball in the back of the net to double the lead.
Puig struck again early in the second half. UNM held a 2-1 advantage at the half before the sophomore notched his second goal of the match — taking advantage of a Seattle defender's inability to clear a ball that was sent into the box, again off the foot of Smart. The ball dribbled away from the Redhawk player and landed right in front of Puig, who cleaned things up and make it a 3-1 Lobo lead at the time.
But receiving an individual award didn't seem to be something the sophomore put a lot of stock in. He said if anything, he considered his player of the week nomination to be a team award because other players set things up so nicely for him.
"To be honest, they were probably two of the easiest goals I've scored in my career and I can only thank my teammates for that," Puig said.
Still, Puig said "it was really something" when he found out he had been named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week —something he learned via social media. He said he was just hanging around the locker room, kicking a ball around, and one of his teammates pulled it up on Twitter.
He wasn't the only Lobo to receive the distinction, as Alesia Garcia brought home Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week for the UNM women's soccer team.
While Puig appreciated the recognition and acknowledged scoring is an important aspect of his game, he said he is aspiring to achieve plenty of other goals individually and as a team this season — chief among them winning a national championship.
"One of the main goals I have actually is just to get the most assists on the team as well," Puig said. "That'll help us overall get to the conference championship and that's where it starts," he said.
The Lobos will start a three-game road trip in which they will play a couple of games in California before Puig gets a homecoming of sorts when the team travels to face Tulsa on Sept. 7.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.