Sandoval, Smith Great Partnership
When it comes to chemistry class, Devon Sandoval and Blake Smith are bringing down A’s.
The senior forwards combined to score all three goals for the fifth-ranked New Mexico men’s soccer team Sunday as the Lobos beat Northern Illinois 3-0 in front of sparse crowd at the UNM Soccer and Track Complex.
Smith collected his team-best sixth assist on the season by sending a pinpoint service across the goal mouth to Sandoval for a textbook header in the 20th minute for the only goal the Lobos (7-1) would need.
UNM at Houston Baptist, 6 p.m.
“I don’t know how to explain that,” Smith said. “Devon and I, we just know how to play together. We do it really well. We’re a good duo. We just know how to find each other and put the ball in the net. We’re friends off the field, good friends off the field. And it translates to the games.”
Sandoval wasn’t positive who got the ball to him on the first goal but he wasn’t surprised to be reminded that it was Smith.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together on the field now; we know each other,” Sandoval said. “We know how each other likes to play. We know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. We spend a lot of time together on and off the field. Everybody on the team. That just builds chemistry I think that’s been showing as of late.”
Sandoval added his team-best seventh goal in the 30th minute, beating the Huskies goalkeeper to a loose ball that a defender had headed.
“Scrappy goals,” UNM coach Jeremy Fishbein said. “Two goals because he outworked and outfought guys.”
It gave New Mexico a two-goal advantage into halftime for the first time this season and allowed Fishbein to think about getting some of his subs some minutes.
Smith capped the scoring in the 68th minute, knocking in a rebound for his third goal of the year.
“Every game this season we’ve had trouble scoring in the first half and have had to step it up in the second half,” he said. “Our goal coming into (Sunday) was to make it an easy game. Sunday games are usually just a grind and we didn’t want it to just be a battle.”
But Fishbein was not entirely pleased with the way things went after the game was all but decided.
“I think we got a little complacent at times with our play,” the coach said. “But we’re going to focus on the positives. We achieved a lot of our goals going into it. I would have loved to see a beautiful game for 90 minutes. It could have been a 5 or 6 goal game. But the glass is half full today.”
Still, Fishbein added, the Lobos need pick up their pace some.
“We could have been better and we’re going to have to be better when we play better teams,” he said. “That’s just the reality of it. We didn’t play very well.”
Even the players realized that they could have added a few more goals to the ledger.
“We still have a lot to improve on,” Sandoval said. “And it could still be better. We probably could have put away two or three more goals so I think that’s’ something that we’re going to be working on this week.”
UNM WOMEN: In Riverside, Calif., Stephanie Rowe scored twice as the Lobos (6-4-1) defeated UC Davis 2-0. UNM has six wins in its last seven matches heading into the conference opener on Friday against Boise State.
— This article appeared on page B6 of the Albuquerque Journal