On an emotional night, in front of a combined crowd of 2,314, the University of New Mexico men’s soccer team opened the season with a 4-2 victory over No. 22 Seattle University.
“Lots of emotions today,” said head coach Jeremy Fishbein. “It was a hard one to get going but we’ve got a confident group, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys.”
A roster that is filled with new faces saw an immediate impact from those players, as Matt Puig and Omar Grey combined to record three goals and two assists and provide an attacking threat that the Lobos had lacked last season.
“(The attacking group) is going to be really special,” Puig said. “Very, very excited with the versatility we have with more guys, different guys — you’ve got Omar (Grey) coming in off the bench doing a great job. Antoine (Vial) and I are doing great up there, we’re going to score goals — that’s our job.”
Antoine Vial opened the scoring for the Lobos in the 25th minute as he connected on a ball from Puig into the box and slotted into the back of the net. As the Lobos celebrated the opening goal, Seattle defender Nathan Aune, the Western Athletic Conference preseason defender of the year, was shown a red card. This left the Redhawks a man down for the rest of the match, and without their captain.
Omar Grey (center) is surrounded by his teammates while celebrating his first goal at UNM against Seattle University on Aug. 24, 2018. Grey, who is originally from Seattle, decided between the two schools in the recruiting process.
The Lobos added a second to double their lead just five minutes later, as Puig opened his UNM account with his first goal on a ball that landed at his feet off of Grey’s head. Seattle answered with their first goal of the game thanks to Julian Avila-Good.
Puig got his second of the game five minutes in to the second half after a long ball from Tom Smart into the box ricocheted off of a Seattle defender and landed at Puig’s feet for the easy finish. He said that the goals he scored were two of the easiest he’s scored in his college career and described them as casual finishes.
Seattle answered again, this time in the 74th minute, when Cody Gibson headed in a rebound after Orlando Neto fired a shot off the post.
The Lobos finished the scoring in the 83rd thanks to the freshman Grey, a player originally from Seattle and whose college decision came down to SeattleU and UNM.
“I’m from Seattle so I’m playing against all my friends and all my family is watching,” Grey said. “I was actually deciding between the two schools, so I was anxious to score. When I finally got that goal it was a relief, it was great because I felt like it welcomed me to my new crowd, to my new home, it was exciting.”
Grey and his teammates certainly had plenty of opportunities to celebrate, and will look to continue that trend on Monday night against the University of Washington at 7 p.m at the UNM Soccer Complex.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.