With another Conference USA loss Tuesday, the New Mexico men’s soccer team is in the unusual position of scrambling for a spot in the conference tournament.
After falling behind by two goals early to Charlotte at the UNM soccer complex, the Lobos were unable to connect on a couple of solid scoring chances in the second half, losing to the 49ers 2-0.
New Mexico’s chances of continuing to play could could come down to its regular-season finale against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 6. The two teams are vying for the seventh and final spot in the conference tournament.
UNM (7-5-3, 1-4-1) has a 0-2-1 record against Charlotte.
The Lobos travel to meet Florida International on Saturday before finishing up at home Nov. 6 against the Owls.
“We have to win one to go to the conference tournament,” said UNM coach Jeremy Fishbein. “We have to be good next Saturday against another really good team, Florida International.”
New Mexico is facing a different style of play during the conference matches.
“You know what we’re seeing in this conference is tough-ass teams,” Fishbein said “We open the season with mostly West Coast, soccer-playing teams. And we’re good at that. But the question is, how do you then match these teams when it just becomes a bit more of a war? An emotional game and that’s where we haven’t been successful.”
“… It’s not pretty soccer. But these teams aren’t here to win style points. They’re here to win games. And we need to realize that.”
Before the Lobos realized anything, they were down a goal midway through the first half when consistent pressure from the 49ers produced a goal from Brandt Bronico.
With six minutes to go before halftime, Kyle Parker scored off a feed from a Max Rodriguez corner kick.
“We got outcompeted in that first half, to be honest,” Fishbein said. “That’s the single biggest thing. They played very direct and they were predictable and we had to match them.”
UNM was able to create a few chances, the best coming with 13 minutes left when Chris Wehan touched a cross through the penalty area that Nicholas Rochowski missed while facing an open net.
“We created some half chances, had some good sequences, but we just didn’t have the same kind of composure and competitive and confidence about us,” Fishbein said. “It’s disappointing. But I’m not sure how you develop those things unless you have that confidence as a player. And you enjoy and embrace that physical aspect of the game. We need to have a little more of that and not just pretty soccer and connect passes.”
NOTE: Sophomore Lucas Seligman, who has started several games and played in 12 prior matches, missed the game because he was suspended for violating unspecified team rules. “Part of being a student-athlete at New Mexico is being held accountable for your actions,” Fishbein said.