LEXINGTON, KY. --- For the third straight season, the University of New Mexico men's soccer team dropped its conference opener on Sunday night as the #21 Lobos fell 1-0 to Kentucky on an early goal in the fifth minute. The loss snaps a five-win streak for the Lobos and is the first loss since UNM fell to ranked opponents Notre Dame and Indiana in its season-opening weekend.
All three Lobo losses this season have been by just one goal, 1-0.
Kentucky kicked off the season picked to finish first in the conference by the league's head coaches in the 2016 Conference USA Preseason Coaches Poll while the Lobos were slated to finish tied for fourth. Kentucky was ranked #21 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll until last week when the Wildcats suffered a loss to FIU to drop out of the top-25 rankings, allowing UNM to slip into the #21 spot.
With the loss, the ranked Lobos fall to 5-3-0 on the season, 0-1 in Conference USA play.
"It was a tough result today, we gave up kind of a fluke-y goal five minutes in and that first half was back and forth," head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. "We put in a great shift that second 45, we were all over them creating chances and getting behind them. The whole second half was played in their half [of the field]. I wouldn't say we had easy finishes but we created a lot of half-chances, you've got to take those, you've got to score goals. The guys played really well though that second half, they showed a lot of composure and a lot of drive."
In just the fifth minute of Sunday night's match, the Wildcats (5-2-1, 1-1 C-USA) fired what would eventually be the game-winning goal when UK senior Charlie Reymann played a ball in the box that was picked up by junior Noah Hutchins and popped over Lobo keeper Jason Beaulieu's head into the net for a 1-0 advantage.
The goal is just the second allowed by Beaulieu in the run of play this season, including last week's goal by UC Irvine in the 56th minute that broke Beaulieu's 484-minute scoreless streak.
New Mexico threatened in the 26th minute when College Soccer News National Player of the Week Niko Hansen took a pass from redshirt-freshman Tom Smart and fired toward the top of the net. The shot sailed just above the crossbar, however, to keep the Lobos down by one.
UNM got another chance in the 36th minute when sophomore Aaron Herrera earned a free kick in the box after Kentucky keeper Stuart Ford collected a defensive pass with his hands. Herrera's shot was blocked but earned the Lobos, and senior Chris Wehan, a corner kick. Wehan's corner opportunity failed to convert.
The Lobo offense dominated the field, continuing to attack throughout the remainder of the half. UNM posted six shots to five for Kentucky in the first period while edging the Wildcats in corner kicks, 3-1.
In the second half, the Lobos continued the intense pressure with several close chances, but the attempts remained unsuccessful en route to the 1-0 final. UNM ultimately found the back of the net twice throughout the match, once in each half, but both were called back as a result of offside rules.
Overall, New Mexico outshot Kentucky 12-6 while posting eight corner kicks to the Wildcats' three. UNM also finished with half as many fouls as Kentucky marking just the second time this season that the Lobos have lost when outshooting and committing less fouls than the opposition.
The teams knew the matchup would be a close one as both squads entered the contest statistically even, especially on the defensive side. Both UNM and Kentucky entered the match allowing less than five goals, posting over .82 save percentages and accumulating four shutouts.
UK's Ford improves to 5-2-1 on the season while notching his fifth shutout as Beaulieu falls to 5-3 overall with the loss.
The Lobos are set to return to action on at home on Sept. 30 when they host FIU in their second C-USA match up of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MT) at the UNM Soccer Complex.