ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico men's soccer team used a late rally to defeat No. 21 American 2-1 in overtime and claim the TLC Plumbing & Utility Invitational championship. Niko Hansen scored in the 85th minute to tie the match, and Francesco Casucci tallied the game-winner off a corner kick 7:09 into the first overtime to give the 15th-ranked Lobos (5-1-1) the victory.
"This is was a great win," Casucci said. "I had the opportunity to score the last one, and I'm really happy because it's an accomplishment of great teamwork tonight. This is a great win."
The Lobos were awarded a corner kick halfway through the first overtime session, and Josh Goss lined up to take it.
"I saw no one was marking me and I just went to the (back) post and the ball found me," Casucci said.
The goal set off a racous celebration among the Lobos and their 2,137 supporters at the UNM Soccer Complex as Casucci was mobbed by his teammates under the scoreboard.
Hansen's goal was the result of sustained second half-pressure by the Lobos. They outshot the Eagles 13-5 in the second frame and had five corner kicks to AU's two.
"We wore them down in the second half," UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. "We had a lot of chances, and we were more disciplined. We were sloppy in the first half and played into their strengths."
With the clock inching towards full time, Casucci received the ball near the top of the 18-yard box and sent a ball in to Hansen. He expertly chipped the ball to himself and let loose a rocket that beat the keeper in the top left corner.
"It was a good ball from Francesco," he said. "I took a touch and just knew I had my guy beat. After that it was just trying to find a good contact. I didn't really look up at the keeper. I just tried to make good contact and it was a good hit. I was happy about that."
American (6-2-0) jumped on the board first when a long free kick was sent into UNM's box. Jason Beaulieupunched it away, but it went right to the Eagle's Nick Sifrin, who was able to get just enough on it to tap it past Beaulieu and a sliding Aaron Herrera.
"We were fortunate," Fishbein said. "We got out with a win against a good team when we weren't at our best. I'm really proud of the guys. … I was happy with (the win), but you can't put yourselves in these situations to often because you won't always come out on top."
Hansen was named Tournament MVP and Offensive MVP of the tournament, and Nicholas Rochowskiearned Defensive MVP honors after stellar play from his center back position. Casucci and Patrick Khouriwere also named to the All-Tournament Team. Khouri came up with a goal-line clearance in the first half to keep the game scoreless and played 89 minutes in the midfield.
"There's no quit to our team," Fishbein said. "That was a good win against a good team."
The Eagles came into the weekend second in the nation in goals per game, averaging 3.33, but the Lobos limited them to just three shots on goal, only one of which that came after halftime.
Niko Hansen, UNM (Tournament MVP)
Hansen, UNM (Offensive MVP)
Nicholas Rochowski, UNM (Defensive MVP)
Francesco Casucci, UNM
Patrick Khouri, UNM
Dale Ludwig, American
Panos Nakhid, American
Dylan Hobert, American,
Alvaro Madrigal, LMU
Mark Dotseth, LMU
Jake Buckle, Missouri State
Brandon Barbero, Missouri State
New Mexico (84:39): Hansen (Casucci)
New Mexico (97:09): Casucci (Goss)
New Mexico: Wehan, yellow (52:56)
American: Ludwig, yellow (52:56)
American: Hobert (GK), Cherry, Robley, Fanet, Manley, Nakhid, Ludwig, Hart, Barone, Garcia, Mbaluku
New Mexico: Beaulieu (GK), Mora Delgado, Dorsey, Rochowski, Goss, Hansen, Khouri, Domiciano, Wehan, Gurule, Herrera
The Lobos open Conference USA play at South Carolina this Friday, Sept. 25.