ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The hopes of many soccer teams going into a match are the same. Get on the scoreboard, record a shutout and get the victory. It was check, check and check for the No. 5 University of New Mexico Lobos in their 2-0 victory over Fairfield University (3-3-0) Friday evening. Friday's action marked the opening day of the 2012 Nike Lobo Invitational.
"It was a tough, hard-fought game. We predicted, going in, what it was going to take (to win). We had to play with quality. We'd need to connect passes with good movement. We had to match their intensity. We knew they were going to make a battle out of it, and they did... We showed a lot of composure, and it was a good win for us," observed Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein after the match.
The Lobos, who had conceded early goals in the beginning of the season, were stout defensively. The Stags only tallied five shots with one on goal during the 90 minutes of action at the UNM Soccer Complex.
Just as he had done against Dartmouth one week earlier, Devon Sandoval scored early in the match. Sandoval capitalized on a miscue in the Fairfield backline that saw a Stag defender head a ball over his own keeper. As the ball bounced in the box, Sandoval raced to the ball for the sliding, tap-in goal.
The senior from Albuquerque's fifth goal of the year was the only scoring action of the first half despite UNM out-shooting Fairfield 11-3 in the game's first 45 minutes.
With the defense continuing to hold for New Mexico, the Lobos eventually tacked on an insurance goal in the 82nd minute. Midfielder Blake Smith fired a shot from two yards out that was saved by the Stag keeper Michael O'Keeffe. O'Keeffe was unable to secure the rebound, which trickled to James Rogers at the near post. The sophomore put the ball in the back of the net for his third goal in four games.
"Our focus this week was just locking things down defensively. We are a team that needs to take pride in shutouts, and we did that tonight," Coach Fishbein noted.
It was an easy shutout for Victor Rodriguez (one save) in between the pipes for the Lobos. Rodriguez picked up his fifth win of the season and his second shutout of the 2012 season. The shutout was the 15th of his career, which ties for third all time in program history.
The victory pushes the UNM record to 6-1-0 as they head to their eighth game of the season on Sunday. The fifth-ranked Lobos will face Northern Illinois (1-4-2) at 1 p.m. (MT) at the UNM Soccer Complex. The day's action will crown the champion of the 2012 Nike Lobo Invitational.