CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A pair of late goals doomed the fifth-ranked New Mexico men’s soccer team to a 2-0 defeat at No. 21 Charlotte Friday night in the Conference USA opener for both teams. UNM (5-2-1, 0-1-0) held fast against the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation but a goal in the 86th minute forced the Lobos to attack, and the 49ers countered and added a second just 65 seconds later.
“It was a good experience to come out here and play a tough, physical team,” UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said.
UNM hadn’t allowed a goal on the road in 445:25 dating back to a 1-0 loss in overtime at South Carolina on Oct. 26.
The first half was well played with New Mexico dominating possession. Each team had its share of moments, though. Charlotte (6-1-0, 1-0-0) had the first as freshman keeper Jason Beaulieu needed to make a save at the 12:49 mark.
Then the Lobos had a succession of free kicks in dangerous areas, but they were unable to direct any towards goal. Seemingly every chance the 49ers had the rest of the half was shut down by UNM’s backline as the Lobos caught Charlotte offside three times in the first half and really limited the 49ers’ chances.
The Lobos managed a bit of pressure in the final minute of the first half, but Kevin Correa’s shot from 20 yards was blocked, and his follow attempt was hurried and easily grabbed by Charlotte’s keeper.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” Fishbein said. “We kept the ball and controlled possession. We were really good. We felt really good about it.”
Charlotte’s attack picked up the pace early in the second half, though. A free kick just outside the box on the far side forced Beaulieu to make a pair of saves, and the 49ers followed shortly after with a pair of corner kicks: one that Oniel Fisher headed out of danger, and the other on an easy save by Beaulieu.
The freshman from Montreal was forced into action again moments later, first to punch a ball out of danger, then to make a diving save on a low shot.
Shortly after that the 49ers nearly took a 1-0 lead. After Nick Miele cleared away a cross, Charlotte regained possession and sent it back in past a stretching Beaulieu. The ball had no pace, though, and Mathew Gibbons was able to reach it and save it by kicking it off the post and to the arms of a lunging Beaulieu.
“In the second half we started giving the ball away in bad areas,” said Fishbein, “It was the game we expected. They were going to try to make us uncomfortable, they were going to try to be physical, and we had to match their intensity in the second half. But we kind of lost our way a little bit.”
For a time it seemed that the Lobos had taken Charlotte’s best punch and withstood it because they started attacking relentlessly. Chris Wehan’s free kick from about 30 yards was saved in the 81st minute, Oniel Fisher’s shot from the top of the box was just wide two minutes later, and then Correa let loose with a rocket off his left foot that beat the keeper but hit the post at the 83:19 mark.
That proved to be UNM’s best chance, though, as the 49ers tallied twice within the next three minutes to secure the win.
“It was 0-0 and we had two really good chances,” Fishbein said. “Oniel was just wide, and Kevin hit the post. Then they got us on the counter. Then we started pushing numbers and they got a second. We got out-competed in the second half, and that’s something we need to look at. But we’ll come back strong, though, and we’ll be ready to go next week.”
Charlotte (85:25): Bronico (Bonilla)
Charlotte (86:30): Steadman (Bonilla)
New Mexico: Beaulieu (GK), Gibbons, McGovern, Miele, McKendry, Rogers, Fisher, Hansen, Wehan, Gurule, Dye
- Gibbons made his 70th career start for the Lobos, which is 10th all-time at UNM. Also, by playing all 90minutes he moved into ninth place on UNM’s all-time minutes played list with 6,318
- Beaulieu finished with a career-high seven saves.
The Lobos return home for a pair of matches next week, including the only mid-week home match of the season. UNM faces West Virginia at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1 and then returns to C-USA play to take on Florida International at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4. Both games will be streamed live via the Mountain West Network at GoLobos.com.