With anticipation for the first match in New Mexico United’s brief history reaching a fever pitch, the club is set to announce several more player signings before the first whistle blows on March 9. However, the core of the group has coalesced over the last eight months, and the inaugural roster has largely been set. With an average age of 25, the club’s players fall just under the average age of 25.3 of players in the USL Championship as a whole, according to soccer statistics website Transfermarkt. 6 players have logged MLS minutes (David Estrada, Devon Sandoval, Sam Hamilton, Chris Wehan, Ethen Sampson, Justin Schmidt), while all but a few have prior USL experience.
After months of anticipation, press releases, social media hype, and some familiar player signings, the New Mexico United soccer club is set to kick off their inaugural season this week at Isotopes Park. Officially unveiled as an expansion club on June 7, 2018, New Mexico United will play in the United Soccer League Championship league (USL), which occupies the second tier of the U.S. soccer pyramid under Major League Soccer (MLS). As part of a rapidly expanding soccer landscape in the U.S., United will join 35 other teams in the league in pursuit of domestic silverware, including the USL Cup and the U.S. Open Cup. While other pro or semi-pro soccer clubs in New Mexico have come and gone (New Mexico Chiles, Albuquerque Geckos), United appears set to stick around. In years past, scores of clubs around the country have folded due to lack of fan support, an inability to pay their players and league restructuring. The USL, meanwhile, has gained a firmer financial footing in the U.S. market through a closer relationship with MLS, promotion to Division II status by the U.S. soccer board of directors and a broadcast partnership with ESPN.
Many people in Albuquerque know New Mexico United is the new professional soccer team, but they may not be aware four former University of New Mexico men's soccer players help make up the roster — possibly some of the last Lobos to have that chance. Devon Sandoval, a native of Albuquerque, found his way back home after stints with Real Salt Lake, the San Francisco Deltas and Atlanta United 2. And he wasted no time notching an unassisted goal in New Mexico United's exhibition against Denver University on Saturday — the lone goal in a friendly that gave the city its first look at the new club.
“It doesn’t have to be pretty, but you have to find a way to win on Sundays,” UNM head coach Heather Dyche said. The Lobos won their second Mountain West Conference game 1-0 against the University of Nevada. In conference play, teams typically play games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Last year, the Lobos only won one of their five Sunday conference games. By comparison, the Lobos performed well on Friday nights last year, winning four of six. Dyche said she wanted her team to learn from last year’s results — that winning on Fridays meant little if the team could not get a result on Sunday.
The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team took the field last night at their second exhibition game at the UNM Soccer Complex against Colorado School of Mines winning the game 3-1. Although the Lobos dominated early possession in the first half, opportunities were created for both teams to break the deadlock. There were a couple of mix-ups within the Lobos defense which, could have gone either way. However, the visitors failed to capitalize on it. Given this was an exhibition game, teams made sure to utilize different plays and tactics to help them sharpen up for the upcoming season. Both teams made use of their substitutions in the first half to get on the scoreboard, but neither could hit the back of the net.
Although considered the offseason, UNM women’s soccer has enjoyed a busy spring period. The Lobos finished the 2016 fall season with a record of 9-7-3 (5-5-1 MW), and missed out on the Mountain West Conference tournament. They finished eighth in the Conference standings, two points behind Boise State. The Lobos closed out the season on a positive note with a dramatic win over San Diego State University. The Lobos also received academic recognition for the fall season. Of the 60 UNM All-Academic Mountain West honorees, 16 were from the women’s soccer program.
Friday night marks “senior night” and the final game of the regular season for the UNM men’s soccer team. After already securing their spot at the Conference USA Championship, the Lobos will be looking to end this chapter with a victory over the Old Dominion Monarchs. The Lobos punched their ticket to the championship tournament after securing a 2-1 victory over the then-No. 25 South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday. Senior midfielder Chris Wehan opened up the scoring in the first half, and senior forward Niko Hansen scored the winning goal in the second. New Mexico currently holds a 9-6-1 overall record and stands 3-3-1 in conference. They are fifth in the C-USA standings with 10 points.
New Mexico put on a shooting clinic in its trip to Weber State on Friday afternoon, but to no avail in a 0-0 tie to Weber State. Right off the bat, the Lobos began to threaten Weber State (1-1-1) by ripping off three shots – two on goal – but sputtered at the danger zone for the Wildcats.
New Mexico shut out California State University, Northridge in hits home opener by a 2-0 count on Friday night. Not only was the contest UNM’s (1-2) first home game on the year, but it was also the Lobos’ first victory.
Another week brings another road trip for New Mexico. This time UNM will head north to take on the Webster State Wildcats Friday night, and the Idaho State Bengals Sunday afternoon.
Aaron Herrera started his 2016 fall campaign on a high note. The sophomore defender for the UNM men’s soccer team was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after his performance during the Lobos’ season-opening weekend at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament.
Two games, two losses. Both for the same reason. The Lobos fell 1-0 to the No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday, in what was the second game they lost on the weekend due to a penalty kick, having also fallen to the Indiana Hoosiers 1-0 on Friday.
New Mexico put on a scoring clinic as it cruised past Pacific 5-2 Sunday afternoon in the team’s last game of the California road trip, picking up its first win of the season in the process. The Lobos scored the most goals on the road since 2009 with the huge margin of victory.
The University of New Mexico women’s soccer team looked to bounce back after their 2-1 loss last Friday at Tech Texas, but fell short in a 2-0 loss to No. 21 California on Friday to remain winless on the young season. The Lobos came out of the gate aggressive and finding opportunities early. During the first 15 minutes of the game the Lobos outshot the Bears 4-2.
30 seconds was all it took to change the outcome of the game. After what seemed to be a statistically even match, the Lobos fell 1-0 to the No. 13 Indiana University Hoosiers during their season opener at South Bend, Indiana, on Friday.
Following New Mexico’s season opening loss to No. 19 Texas Tech on the road, the women’s soccer team is headed to the west coast to take on yet another ranked opponent in the California Golden Bears. The Lobos (0-1-0) scheduled to start the season away from home, playing its first seven matches away from the UNM Soccer Complex.
When it comes to their season opener, the Lobos aren’t cautiously wading into the water, they are diving in head first. The UNM men’s soccer team will travel to South Bend, Indiana to face the Indiana University Hoosiers, a team that is currently ranked at No. 13. This is part of the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament weekend. The Lobos play Indiana on Friday and Notre Dame on Sunday.
A lone goal and a strong defense helped the Lobos in a 1-0 victory over the University of Washington Huskies for their third and final preseason match on Saturday. Senior forward Niko Hansen banged in his fourth goal of the week with just six minutes remaining on the clock. This game-winner was also his 11th goal in 2016, as he scored seven in the spring.
Two down, one to go. The Lobos finished their second exhibition match with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Fort Lewis Skyhawks on Thursday morning. The Lobos were coming off of a 3-0 win against the UNLV Rebels earlier this week, which allowed UNM to enter Thursday’s match with confidence.