LOS ANGELES – The national stage was set for the #6 University of New Mexico men’s soccer team to make its opening statement of the 2012 season. That message was loud and clear as the Lobos downed #2 UCLA 3-2 in Los Angeles on a game that broadcast on the brand-new PAC-12 Network.
It was UNM seniors Devon Sandoval and Blake Smith who led the way with three combined goals with Sandoval scoring twice. Smith would also register an assist on Sandoval’s second goal. Sandoval’s and Smith’s efforts were part of a frenetic scoring pace that saw each score a goal within three minutes of one another.
“It was a pretty hard-fought game. We thought we would be tougher than UCLA and that we would press them and cause them a lot of problems. But that was a very good team and one of the best teams we have ever played. I thought we mixed it up well playing softer when we needed to, but then we were able to battle when needed. We played with a lot of class, and I was just really proud of our guys,” Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein noted.
Yet the defensive story of the game was New Mexico goalkeeper Patrick Poblete who made his first collegiate start Friday night in Los Angeles. The redshirt sophomore’s previous appearance was as a high school senior at Brophy in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2009. Poblete recorded five saves between the pipes for the Lobos, which included one in the final 30 seconds of the match to preserve the victory.
“They scored two really good goals off him, and there wasn’t much he could do about them. But he came up big, and he was great at the end. He was composed and had a great showing. I think our goalkeeper coach Savva Biller instills so much confidence in those guys and tonight was big for Pat,” observed Coach Fishbein.
Poblete was tested early recording two saves in the first fifteen minutes of the game. The Lobo defense would tighten up as the game was played on the UCLA half of the field for the middle portion of the first half.
The first scoring threat of the night would come on a New Mexico attacking run. Junior Michael Calderon would receive the ball off a Devon Sandoval pass down the center of the field. Calderon would break ahead and draw out Bruin keeper Earl Edwards, but the junior’s shot would sail just right of goal.
UNM’s first half body of work would end on a sour note courtesy of a UCLA goal in the 43rd minute. Reed Williams would drive to the right edge of the box and sent a right-footed cross towards the center of the box. A marked Ryan Hollingshead would rise up over a Lobo defender and head home the cross by a diving Patrick Poblete. The 1-0 score would remain as the Bruins would lead the match going into halftime.
The Lobos came out looking to pressure the home team Bruins as they created a couple of early chances in the second half. A high ball into the UCLA box intended for Devon Sandoval would draw out Edwards again. After clearing it out, UCLA keeper Earl Edwards would leave the game due to injury after a collision.
Less than five minutes after the change in net, the Lobos would score their first goal of the game. Levi Rossi would send the Lobo cross right-to-left to the opposite edge of the box. Sandoval would fight clear of the man marking him and head home the Rossi cross to the far post to tie the game in the 57th minute.
The scoring action would pick up the pace as UCLA would re-enter Edwards in goal. Three minutes after the Sandoval goal, he would spark another scoring strike.
Sandoval would receive a ball deep in the UCLA box and fire a shot by Edwards that was deflected by a defender behind him. The rebound would bounce to the left side of the box where Blake Smith would race forward and bury home a goal to the far post from three yards out. The senior’s first goal of 2012 gave UNM its first lead of the game in 60th minute.
The frentic scoring pace would go the home team’s way as well as the Bruin equalizer was swift and immediate. The UCLA goal would come in the 62nd minute off a set piece just outside the right edge of the Lobo box. Leo Stolz would trigger the free kick, which found Evan Raynr at the near edge of the box who headed home the goal.
The scoring action saw three total goals in four minutes after only seeing one goal in the match’s first 55 minutes. After an hour of play, the game would be tied again as the scoring pace would slow.
The game would reside in the midfield as both teams looked to press for an opportunity. New Mexico’s pressing would create a chance for Michael Calderon in the 72nd minute. The junior took a Levi Rossi deflected back heel pass but would miss wide left on a left-footed shot from 16 yards out.
The chances would keep coming for the Lobos playing up top. Just three minutes after Calderon’s attempt, Blake Smith would initiate the Lobo’s third scoring strike of the game. The senior would hold possession on the left edge of the box and send a pass in towards Sandoval. Smith’s pass would bounce past the foot of a sliding UCLA defender and onto the right foot of Sandoval who tapped it home from just in front of the goal to give the Lobos the 3-2 lead.
“I was excited to see our big guns come through with goals and that was important. Blake and Devon didn’t score at all in the preseason, so there performance tonight was pretty big for us,” Coach Fishbein said.
The goal advantage for Coach Fishbein and company would hold but not without a little bit of drama. The Bruins would get off several shots in the final minutes, which included one punched out by Poblete in the final 30 seconds of the match.
“At the end of the day, these guys expect to win, and they play hard. That’s a good feeling when you come to a place like UCLA and you expect to get a result,” Fishbein noted.
Friday night’s victory against UCLA marked New Mexico’s second win in the eleven game series. It avenged a heartbreaking loss to the Bruins in their previous meeting in the 2007 College Cup. In that first-round tournament match-up UCLA scored the only goal of the game in the 89th minute off a free kick.
Friday night’s win puts the Lobo record at 1-0 going into next weekend’s action. New Mexico will travel to Oklahoma for the Tulsa Invitational with games against Tulsa on Friday, August 31 at 7 p.m. and against SMU at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 2.
UCLA – Ryan Hollingshead header(Reed Williams assist) 1-0 UCLA 43:07 *Williams cross from left edge of box to Hollingshead who headed it in from 6 yards out.
UNM – Devon Sandoval header (Levi Rossi assist) 1-1 56:59 *Levi Rossi from right, front corner of box across to Sandoval who heads in far post from 8 yards.
UNM – Blake Smith (goal off a rebound from Devon Sandoval shot) 2-1 UNM 59:59 *Sandoval shoots from 6 yards past GK, UCLA defender deflect shot out to left edge of box. Smith scored rebound far post from 3 yards out.
UCLA – Evan Raynr (Leo Stolz assist) 2-2 61:07 *Stolz free kick 7 yards outside of box to near side to Raynr who heads home near post from 8 yards out
UNM – Devon Sandoval (Blake Smith assist) 3-2 UNM 74:59 *Smith drives to left edge of box slides pass in to center of box, Sandoval taps home with right foot from a yard out.