After a long offseason fighting to save the program from being cut, the University of New Mexico men’s soccer team is finally ready to take the field for what will be the program’s final season.
The Lobos open the season this Friday at home against No. 22 Seattle University at 7 p.m. as part of a double header with the women’s soccer team. The last meeting between Seattle and UNM was last season in Seattle, resulting in a 1-0 win for the Redhawks.
The Redhawks are the defending Western Athletic Conference Tournament champions and are the favorites to win the league again this season. Last season saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Akron.
Among the returning players for SU are Sergio Rivas and Nathan Aune, the preseason WAC offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively.
“Seattle, our opening game, plays very different tactically than most teams we play,” Fishbein said. “They’re fun to watch, skillful, attack oriented team, so we have to make some adjustments and play to our strengths and that’s going to be a great challenge.”
The Lobos come into the season as a young team, with 14 freshman joining the squad. Two of them, Peter Chang and Glademir Mendoza, who were both expected to have significant contributions on the field this year suffered season ending injuries this summer and won’t be available.
The uncertainty over the programs future also resulted in the departure of four players who would have been contributors in Matthew Constant, Rio Murray, Evan Munn and Carlton McKenzie.
“We’ve got really good players, there’s a thing we talked to the guys about at the beginning of the season, it’s not about how old you are it’s about how good you are,” Fishbein said. “We’ve quickly become a pretty cohesive group, a pretty unified group and that starts with the leadership but it's also the maturity of the young guys.”
On Monday Aug. 27, the Lobos will face the University of Washington at the UNM Soccer Complex. Washington is another squad the Lobos faced against last season, suffering the same result as they did against Seattle, a 1-0 defeat in what was the season opener. Washington was also in the NCAA Tournament last year, losing to the Redhawks in the first round.
The Huskies will open their season on Aug. 24 with a home game against Maryland before traveling to New Mexico.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.