The unbeaten streak, the top-5 national ranking and first place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation all went away Friday for the New Mexico men’s soccer team.
And it didn’t come as much of a surprise to UNM coach Jeremy Fishbein.
“I just don’t think we were very good,” Fishbein said after Air Force scored 3:41 into the first overtime to earn a 1-0 victory at the UNM Soccer and Track Complex.
UNM vs. Denver, 1 p.m. at the UNM Soccer and Track Complex
“We have a lot of very good players who were average,” he said. “I kept thinking somebody would make something happen like they have in the past, and they never did.”
Instead, it was the Falcons (5-5-1, 2-0-0) who made something happen.
After a throw in deep in the New Mexico end, goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez tried to get to the ball, but he was unable to get a good piece of it.
“I punched the ball and it wasn’t the best punch on my part,” he said. “I just need to be better.”
The ball popped over to Air Force’s Caleb Downey who put it away through a scrum in front of the net for his first goal of the season.
“It was one of those lucky goals,” Rodriguez said. “We dominated the whole game and they got a lucky bounce.”
It’s the first time this season New Mexico (8-2-0, 1-1-0) was shut out as the Lobos struggled to find a rhythm throughout the game.
“We didn’t connect passes,” Fishbein said. “We didn’t take chances. … It’s disappointing. There’s some questions they have to ask themselves.”
New Mexico’s struggles on offense were in part because of the Falcons’ defensive scheme, said Air Force coach Doug Hill.
“Our 1-v-1 defending was very good on the outside,” he said. “And we found a way to contain (Devon) Sandoval. That was the game plan for them going in.”
The Falcons also packed in their defenders, looking to attack via counters or create offense off set plays.
“I thought they played it right against us,” Fishbein said. “We made some mental mistakes and the guys didn’t excel.”
The loss ends the school’s unbeaten streak at 17 games, one off the school record, and its regular-season winning streak at a record 13 games.
It was Air Force that last handed the Lobos a defeat at their home, but beating a nationally ranked team in overtime makes this more special, Hill said. “We haven’t had an OT win this year,” he said. “This is a great team we played against. They get the ball up strong but we were able to win many of the balls up front.”
Still, New Mexico had two solid chances to end the game in regulation, but Michael Calderon’s point-blank blast with 28 minutes left went right at Air Force goalkeeper Matt Underwood.
And Sandoval’s header rolled just wide of an open net with 11 minutes remaining.
To look at the stat sheet, it would appear New Mexico came out on top as it took 15 shots to eight for Air Force, including two on net compared with four for the Lobos.
“They obviously dominated the stats,” Hill said. “They dominated the attack and the ball possession, but we got the one goal.”
NOTE: Air Force claimed one local player in senior defender Kevin Rossillon of Eldorado, but he did not see action Friday.