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Lobos eager to open exhibition schedule

Spring soccer can become a bit of a grind for the New Mexico Lobo men’s soccer team. But a little fun arrives Sunday.

The Lobos will play the first of their five spring exhibitions when they travel to Commerce City, Colo., to take on the reserves of the MLS’s Colorado Rapids.

“It’s a tough one,” UNM coach Jeremy Fishbein said, “playing against a team that on paper is more mature and, in theory, better. I wish we could go into the game at our best, with a couple of games under our belt.

“It will be a good tool to evaluate our players. It will set a base line for the rest of the spring. It will be a fun game just to see where we’re at.”

The reserves are a mix of pros and members of the Rapids’ academy team.

The Lobos, who reached the College Cup semifinals last season, had four seniors taken in the 2014 MLS draft. The effort to replace them and form a foundation for 2014 has begun in earnest.

“We want to create an identity,” Fishbein said. “This is our preseason. We’re working toward being our best in late August. … We need to develop leadership, establish a system and a style of play and to keep moving forward.”

The Lobos have been training since UNM’s spring semester began in late January.

“You don’t get the reward of playing one or two games a week,” Fishbein said of spring workouts. “It’s a mental test. Physically, it’s a load. You’re training five days a week. In the fall, you get intense match days, but more off days or travel days or light days. It’s both mentally and physically harder until once we get to the games.

“It’s the foundation of our program. Our work in the offseason is committed to us being better prepared than our opponents.”

UNM’s Ben McKendry spent his spring break training with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM’s Ben McKendry spent his spring break training with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

UNM’s only home match of the spring will be April 12 against Air Force at Roberston Field.

The Lobos will have two matches in Taos – April 5 against Denver University and April 19 against Fort Lewis.

New Mexico closes its spring schedule against FC Tucson of the Professional Developmental League on May 3 in Tucson.

NOTES: UNM could face a familiar foe Sunday. Grant Van De Casteele, a defender for the Notre Dame team that beat the Lobos in the College Cup semis, scored for the Rapids reserves in their recent win over Nebraska-Omaha.

… Lobo junior-to-be Ben McKendry spent spring break training with the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps. The Caps have the rights to the Vancouver native as long as he spends a certain number of hours with them annually.

… Incoming freshman goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu was the MVP in the Montreal Impact’s academy system. He is one of five MLS academy signees in UNM’s 2014 freshman class.

… Former Lobo defender Kyle Venter started for LA Galaxy II in their USL Pro opener.

… Michael Lisch, UNM’s starting goalkeeper last season, is on the Houston Dynamo’s active roster.

… Vancouver sent ex-Lobo Michael Kafari to the Charleston Battery of the USL. Former Lobo Michael Calderon hooked up with the Wilmington Hammerheads of the USL.