ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The No. 8 University of New Mexico's waited three games before their home opener and waited even longer after lightning delayed the start to the season's first match in Albuquerque. The Lobos would weather monsoon-like conditions as they defeated No. 25 UAB (2-2-1) 2-0 Friday night. It was a Spanish-themed promotional night for the Lobos who donned special Spanish jerseys.
Both UNM goals came in the second half after the rain let up. Senior Nik Robson scored his first goal in a Lobo uniform in the 57th minute to put the Lobos on the board. James Rogers tacked on an insurance goal in the 79th minute in his 2012 season debut.
"I was really happy with our performance. The conditions were difficult, and that first half was more of a war than we needed it to be... When it was time to battle (in the second half) we matched them, and that was good to see," observed Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein after the match.
When play finally began after the lightning delay to start the game, the playing conditions were dreadful. Constant winds between 20 and 30 mph would batter both squads throughout the match. The Blazers threatened first when forward Kofi Gyawu attempted to head a ball from the top of the box, which forced one of Victor Rodriguez's two saves on the night for the Lobos.
The wind wreaked havoc with crosses, and the Lobos were unable to register a shot on goal in the first half. Levi Rossi took three shots in the first half for UNM but missed on all three. The teams went into the half scoreless with only one shot on goal between the two.
New Mexico's trademark pressure changed the complexion of the game in the initial minutes of the second half. After not registering a single shot on goal in the first half, the Lobos forced UAB's Raphael Ville to make three saves within a 37-second span in the 49th and 50th minutes. The first shot of the barrage came from Rogers who shot from just inside the box. Ville's save would rebound to Michael Kafari whose shot from the top of the box was also saved by the Blazer goalkeeper. Ville also denied Nik Robson who gathered from near-post side before being denied by Ville.
New Mexico would not be denied as their first scoring run came in the 57th minute. A string of connected passes found James Rogers. The speedy sophomore raced the ball down the right flank before sending it across the box to junior Michael Calderon. Calderon gathered along the top edge of the box and then elected to drop the ball to Robson who fired in the game's first goal to the far post.
UAB tried to answer and nearly got an equalizer seven minutes later. Blazer midfielder Moses Adeniran fired a high arching blast from over 40 yards out. The high shot caught some of the swirling wind and forced Rodriguez to make the save at the top of his jump. The teams went nearly shot-for-shot in the fifteen minutes after Adeniran's near goal.
Yet, it was New Mexico's pressure that gave way to another Lobo goal. After Rogers set things up for Calderon on UNM's first goal, Calderon would trigger things for Rogers on the second goal. The junior midfielder launched a shot from the edge of the box, which forced Raphael Ville into his fourth save of the night for UAB. The rebound found an opportunistic James Rogers. Rogers, using his left foot, tickled the back of the net from the right corner of the box to the near post.
The Lobos walked away with the 2-0 victory after out-shooting UAB 17-11, which included an eleven to five shot advantage for UNM in the second half. A crowd of 2,975 waited through a lightning delay and the elements to see UNM leave the pitch victorious.
"I felt like we weathered the storm, and the guys dealt with the elements. I was real happy with our guys because this was the type of game that we needed," Coach Fishbein noted.
The win at the UNM Soccer Complex pushes the Lobos regular-season home unbeaten streak to 13 matches. New Mexico's last regular season home loss was to Air Force on October 10, 2010.
New Mexico improves their record to 3-1, and they will look ahead to their home tournament next weekend. The Lobos will host Dartmouth and UC Irvine in the TLC Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Lobo Invitational on Friday, September 14 and Sunday, September 16.