COLUMBIA, S.C. – For a while Friday night it looked as if the University of New Mexico men’s soccer team’s late-game magic would pave the way to a sixth straight victory as Chris Wehan converted a penalty in the 86th minute to send the Lobos’ match at South Carolina into overtime.
However, a bouncing shot in the 99th minute found its way through Lobo keeper Jason Beaulieu‘s hands to send UNM to a 2-1 defeat in its Conference USA opener.
Beaulieu had been tremendous all night making four saves and constantly coming off his line to snuff the Gamecocks’ attacks.
“It was a really unfortunate goal,” UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. “Jason has been outstanding all season. It’s a goalkeeper’s worst nightmare. It’s a routine ball, and you lose your concentration for just one second, it takes one little bounce and that’s the game.”
The Lobos (5-2-1, 0-1-0) found themselves trailing early after a cross from the right found its mark in the box and South Carolina (5-2-1, 2-0-0) converted just 2:25 into the match.
“It’s not fair to the guys to say we came out casually,” Fishbein said, “but it’s been a bit of a repeating trend to not play with urgency in the first half. This team has a lot of belief, but you can’t put yourself in that situation too many times. It finally came back to bite us tonight.”
UNM dominated most of the possession for the rest of the half, and led in both shots and corners at the break, but still trailed 1-0.
The Lobos trailed most of the second half as well. Despite great play up top from Niko Hansen, who was a constant threat, UNM was unable to break the Gamecock defense.
“Outside of those opening three minutes, and really just one series of play, when our focus wasn’t where it needed to be, we looked pretty good,” said Fishbein. “We had three very good chances that we didn’t capitalize on. The problem was (the early goal) played into SC’s hands. They could play deeper defensively and look to counter.”
Until, that is, the dying minutes of regulation. Patrick Khouri fought off a defender near the top of the box and flicked the ball towards Wehan who was streaking to the goal. He was taken down from behind a couple steps into the 18-yard box to set up a penalty. He calmly stepped up and hammered it to the right side of the net, completely fooling the keeper who jumped the other way.
That sent the match to overtime where each team’s striker sent a dangerous shot just over the bar in the early minutes. Danny Deakin let loose a rocket that was high by only a couple inches in the 92nd minute, and Hansen responded in kind four minutes later.
In the end, though, it was an innocuous shot that found the back of the net to send the Lobos home unhappy.
UNM will look to get back on the winning track when it hosts San Francisco on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at the UNM Soccer Complex. The Lobos will then return to conference play on Sunday when they host Kentucky at 6 p.m.
“This is a tough conference to go on the road,” Fishbein said. “We have to quickly put this one behind us. We’re home for the next two and get to face a good team on Wednesday. We have a lot to look forward to.”
South Carolina (2:25):Walker (Millard, Kryst)
New Mexico (85:38): Hansen (PK)
South Carolina (98:21):Torda
New Mexico: Casucci, yellow (81:43); Herrera, yellow (87:10)
South Carolina:McManis, yellow (52:29)
South Carolina: Pyle (GK), Torda, Deakin, Walker, McManis, Kryst, Arambula, Burnett, Millard, L’Amoreaux, Ericson
New Mexico: Beaulieu (GK), Rochowski, Goss, Hansen, Khouri, Wehan, Gurule, Herrera, Dye, Gleadle, Kajermo
- Sam Gleadle made his first start of the season and just the second of his career
- Hansen and Wehan each had three shots with one on goal to lead UNM
- The Lobos finished with 11 shots compared to 13 for South Carolina
The Lobos return home for two matches next week. They host San Francisco on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 in a non-conference match, then return to C-USA play when they host Kentucky on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m.