Published: August 27, 2015
Lobo Soccer- at Drake Stadium (11,700)
When: Saturday at 5p.m. (MT)
Who: No. 1 UCLA Bruins
GoLobos.com: Live stats, box score, live stream, postgame recap
TV: Pac-12 Network (Comcast channel 284; DISH channel 406)
Video: Live stream available at GoLobos.com
Weather Forecast: 86 degrees, partly cloudy
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of New Mexico men's soccer program is not used to starting a season this way. Instead of coming off a successful campaign and a trip to the postseason, the Lobos have to rebound from missing the NCAA tournament for just the second time in the last 10 years.
UNM lost eight players from last year's squad, five of whom are now playing professionally, and it needs to replace nearly 47 percent of its scoring output. Head coach Jeremy Fishbein, though, believes his team will flourish this year.
"Last year was a real learning experience," he said. "Something I've always taken pride in is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Last year I thought the parts were incredible, but the whole wasn't greater than the sum, and that was probably the first time in my career that I can say that. So even though we lost some great players, I think we have an incredible unity and spirit to this team."
Luckily for the Lobos, they return their top two scorers from 2014 in redshirt junior midfield Chris Wehan (10 goals, two assists, 22 points) and junior forward Niko Hansen(five goals, three assists, 13 points). Each player was named to the preseason Conference USA All-Conference Team. Wehan was also named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list, and Hansen was invited to train with the USMNT at its collegiate identification camp in preparation for Olympic qualifying.
They'll have help scoring from the likes of junior Josh Goss and sophomore Sam Gleadle, who combined for two goals and five assists a year ago.
UNM's two seniors, Josh Dye and Adrian Mora Delgado, will help anchor the midfield, which should be a strength of the Lobos.
It will be tough to replace three senior defenders, but the Lobos figure they have the talent to do so. Redshirt junior center back Chris Gurule returns after starting 17 matches last year and finishing third on the team in minutes. Joining him will beNicholas Rochowski, who has made 27 career appearances and scored an overtime game-winning goal at No. 11 Georgetown on Sept. 8, 2013. In goal the Lobos have a returner in sophomore Jason Beaulieu, who tied a UNM freshman record with five shutouts last season and will be pushed for playing time by redshirt sophomore James Bannon-Schneebeck.
So how do the Lobos move forward and aim for a return to prominence in 2015? It started in the winter with a great recruiting class. UNM brought in a junior college All-American defender in Yuri Domiciano as well as five freshmen: midfielders Devin Boyce, Kasper Kajermo and Simon Spangenberg, defender Aaron Herrera, and keeperAndy Rios. The Lobos added to the class over the summer by bringing in Francesco Casucci, who captained Torino FC's U20 team, local keeper Ford Parker from Sandia High School, and defenseman Rus Bigege from prestigious Brophy College Prep in Phoenix.
Then you add in a couple of key players coming of redshirt seasons such as Patrick Khouri, who just returned from playing with Jamaica in Olympic qualifying, Olav Hovstad and Matt Dorsey. All three of those players saw significant playing in the preseason and should contribute to the Lobos in 2015.
"I think we've got a pretty great team this year," Dye said. "We've got some great young players I think. We've become more mentally tough and more unified. That's how we want to represent ourselves."
An undefeated preseason (2-0-1) also helps to build confidence for the young Lobos. They conceded just once, and that was with 22 seconds remaining against Air Force in their first match. If not for that momentary lapse, they would have posted three straight clean sheets in the preseason. As it is, they outscored their opponents 5-1 with veterans (Wehan, Goss), freshmen (Dorsey, Gabriel Camera) and even the defense (Rochowski) contributing.
Conference USA's head coaches obviously expect UNM to be successful this season and picked the Lobos to finish second in the conference. Perhaps no one has more confidence in his club than Fishbein, though.
"I'm with the team every day," he said, "and I would never bet against these guys. I expect to win every game. We expect to win every time we step on the field, regardless of whom we play."
The Lobos will get the opportunity to prove themselves this weekend with the toughest test in the country. They travel to preseason No. 1, and last season's NCAA tournament runners-up, UCLA.
"I couldn't be more excited for our opening game," said Wehan. "It's a new season and I can't wait to get going."
Despite losing lots of talent, most notably Leo Stolz, the 18th overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft last January, the Bruins return plenty of skill. They had three players -- Seyi Adekoya, Michael Amick and Abu Danladi -- named Preseason All-Pac-12, and Amick was also named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. UCLA also had this year's No. 1-ranked recruiting class to bolster its already full ranks. UCLA drew with the Mexican National U17 squad 1-1 and defeated USF 2-1 in its two exhibition matches.
The match will be televised on the Pac-12 Network on Comcast channel 284 and DISH Network channel 406. It will also be streamed online at pac-12.com.
Series Record: 2-10-0
Home: 1-5-0; Road: 1-5-0; Neutral: 0-0-0
Last meeting: The Lobos lost to the Bruins at the UNM Soccer Complex 2-1 last season, but won the last matchup in Los Angeles 3-2 in 2012.
Up Next: UNM hosts UCSB, San Diego and Denver (neutral) in The Grange & Ashwill Memorial Invitational next weekend.
A LEADER AMONG LEADERS ... Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein continues to build his coaching legacy at New Mexico. The 2015 season will be Fishbein's 14th at the helm of Lobo Soccer. His UNM record of 179-60-29 makes him the program's all-time winningest coach. Furthermore, Fishbein has cemented himself among the best in the nation. His 153 wins since 2004 are third in the nation among all active NCAA Division I head coaches.
NCAA Active Win Leaders Since 2004
1st - Sasho Cirovski (Maryland) - 183 wins
2nd - Elmar Bolowich (Creighton) - 155 wins
3rd - Jeremy Fishbein (New Mexico) - 153 wins
T-4th - Jay Vicovich (Wake Forest) - 152 wins
T-4th - Tim Vom Steeg (UC Santa Barbara) - 152 wins
6th - Ray Reid (UConn) - 150 wins
7th - George Gelnovatch (Virginia) - 148 wins
8th - Jorge Salcedo (UCLA) - 144 wins
LOBO SOCCER: A MILE HIGH AND LOUDER THAN ... The UNM Soccer Complex is building a reputation as one of the nation's toughest venues to play in. In addition to being "a mile high and louder than…", New Mexico has turned Albuquerque into one of the hottest tickets in college soccer. The Lobos have ranked in the top 15 in attendance nationally every season since the NCAA began keeping those statistics in 2001. It was first in attendance nationally in 2005 and has ranked in the top ten in every season since 2009.
MORE THAN AN INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR ... While the diversity of the team roster is obvious, many Lobos have some serious international credentials. Two have represented their country in top-level international competition: Adrian Mora Delgado(Costa Rica U-17), Patrick Khouri (USA U-14, U-15 and Jamaica U-23). Most recently,Niko Hansen was invited to USA's U-23 college ID camp in preparation for 2016 Summer Olympic qualifying.
TOP LIEUTENANTS ... When asked about his program's success on and off the pitch, head coach Jeremy Fishbein is always quick to direct praise to his staff. The Lobos' staff has combined to spend over a decade on the UNM bench. The praise of the staff has also come in the form of national awards. Assistant coach Paul Souders was named the NSCAA Far West Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012.
EXCELLING OFF THE PITCH ... Lobo Soccer has a rich tradition of academic success. During the Fishbein era (2002 to present), UNM has had 19 Academic All-Americans, 89 Academic All-Conference honorees and 12 NSCAA Scholar All-Americans. The team led all men's soccer programs in Conference USA in 2014 with a program-record collective GPA of 3.370.
PRESEASON HONORS ... The Lobos were picked to finish second in Conference USA as voted on by the league's coaches. UNM received one first-place vote and finished behind Charlotte. Chris Wehan and Niko Hansen were both voted onto the Presason All-Conference Team. Wehan was also named to the MAC Hermann Trophy preseason watch list.