Lobos host No. 22 Seattle for season opener

Senior midfielder Antoine Vial said he wants the 2018 season to be at least twice as good as his junior year. Isabel Gonzalez/The Lobo Lair

Isabel Gonzalez

New Mexico vs Seattle
Aug. 24 at 7pm
UNM Soccer Complex
The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team has faced many distractions during the last couple months, but it’s now time to put all energy and focus into the field.
The Lobos will open their season showing they’re not afraid of a challenge… or two. They kick off 2018 by hosting the No. 22 Seattle University Redhawks on Friday, and the No. 24 Washington Huskies on Monday. The Lobos opened last season on the road against these two same opponents and went 0-2, both games with a one-goal difference. However, head coach Jeremy Fishbein said he expects things to go differently this time.
“It’s a different team, we are playing against a different team and we are playing at home,” he said, focusing on Seattle.
Home advantage proved to be real for the Lobos last season as they went 5-1-3 when playing at the UNM soccer complex.
Although Fishbein is right that the Redhawks won’t be exactly the same team, they do return some key pieces in their senior class. Nathan Aune was the 2017 Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and has been awarded the same honor for preseason this year. In the offense, midfielder Sergio Rivas led the team with 22 points last season and received the WAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for 2018.
Fishbein said the biggest challenge Seattle presents is that tactically the Redhawks play differently than most teams UNM faces. However, he and the Lobos embrace the challenge.
“They’re fun to watch, skillful, and an attack-oriented team,” the coach described the Redhawks. “We have to make some adjustments and play to our strengths. That’s going to be a great challenge. That was kind of the message to the team today. Be excited for the challenge, be up for it. I think we are and we will be. One game at a time.”

Defender Aaron Herrera led the Lobos last season with five goals and five assists. The Las Cruces native left the program to go play professionally with Real Salt Lake. However, the Lobos got to keep their second highest scorer, midfielder Antoine Vial. The French native scored four goals during his first year as a Lobo, but he has made it clear that since this is his last year as a college soccer player, he wants to push himself even more.
“I’m really excited. I want to have my best year. I think I got a decent season last year, but I’m looking forward to doing at least twice better than last year,” he said.
Meanwhile, the last line of defense is now goalkeeper Ford Parker, as last year’s starter Jason Beaulieu has graduated and is now with the Montreal Impact. The last time Parker was in the spotlight was in 2016 when he made an appearance in four games.
The Albuquerque native became known as the penalty kick specialist after he saved four PKs in the shootout against the then-No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats during the Conference USA Tournament Quarterfinals. He also showed up big time for his team during the first round of the NCAA Tournament making three PK saves to give the Lobos a 6-5 shootout win over Portland to advance to the second round.
Although it’s been a while, Parker said he feels ready to show what he and the rest of the Lobo defense can do, starting this Friday.
“Seattle is an interesting team. They play a different formation than we usually see but the coaches and our team are ready for it,” Parker said. “Mike (Graczyk, associate head coach) and Kelly (Altman, assistant coach) have provided a good understanding to how they are going to play and line up against us. I think we’re pretty prepared for that.”
At the end of the day, Fishbein said, the game is probably going to come down to moments and who takes full advantage of opportunities. When asked if the team was using the UNM board of regent’s decision to discontinue the men’s soccer team as motivation to play even better this year, the coach said that really wasn’t how the team wanted to approach the season. Playing the best they can has always been the way Lobos approach every season, not just this one.
“It’s not like we are going to die at the end of the season,” Fishbein said. “We’ll move on. Do we want to be here at the University of New Mexico? Of course.”

Offseason New Mexico Roster Changes
Fishbein officially announced that four players have transferred since May:

  • Matthew Constant
  • Carlton McKenzie
  • Evan Munn
  • Rio Murray

Two freshmen won’t play this season due to injuries:

  • Peter Chang – reoccurring foot injury
  • Glademir Mendoza – ACL