Men's Soccer Drops Season Opener at New Mexico, 1-0
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - After allowing a goal just two minutes and 59 seconds into the game, the University of Akron men's soccer team failed to score an equalizer and lost at New Mexico on Friday night, 1-0.
The Lobos, a squad that made it to the College Cup in their first year as part of Conference-USA last season, came into tonight's game with the No. 5 ranking in the country after falling to eventual national champion Notre Dame in their semifinal matchup in 2013.
In their season opener over 1,400 miles from home in Albuquerque, the Zips conceded a goal to Oniel Fisher in the third minute of play as he took a pass from Chris Wehan and netted a shot from the top of the box, bending it in just to the left of junior goalkeeper Jake Fenlason.
New Mexico, led by 13th year head coach Jeremy Fishbein, took 10 shots in the first 30 minutes and four seconds of play, including a stretch of five minutes in the middle that consisted of seven shots, three on goal. In the 20th minute, the Lobos took a series of three shots in the box in a period of 22 seconds, with the first saved by Fenlason, the second blocked, and the third sailing high to end the attack.
Despite the pressure, the Zips had their chances early on as well. In the 16th minute, freshman Sam Gainford booted a corner kick into the box that junior Sean Sepe was able to play across the middle before having the ball taken away by a Lobo defender.
New Mexico continued their strong possessions in the half, including a penalty kick taken in the 25th minute from just beyond the top of the box that Fenlason jumped and tipped above the goal. The Lobos took 11 total shots in the first half compared to just three for Akron.
The Zips came out of halftime raring to get back in the game, as they seemingly played the ball up to their offensive end at a higher rate with both sophomore Adam Najem and freshman Jesse Garcia-Aguilar staying heavily involved. Garcia-Aguilar took a corner kick in the 50th minute that was juggled around the box as UA failed to capitalize.
Perhaps the best opportunity for the Zips to tie it up came in the 60th minute when freshman Nate Shultz fed a ball in the air to Najem, who jumped and attempted to kick it in the air but missed high.
Goalkeeper Patrick Poblete made two saves for New Mexico, including one eight seconds into the match, playing the full 90 minutes in net for the Lobos.
Najem made an array of impressive runs in the second half, including one in the last 20 minutes of play that included a foul, allowing him to take a direct kick from the left side that was gobbled up by Poblete in the middle of the box.
Managing just those two shots on goal, one by Gainford and the other by freshman Stuart Holthusen, the Zips overall took just five shots, constantly in battle for field position with the New Mexico back line.
Fenlason made eight saves for Akron, four in each half, one shy of his career high of nine which came in last season's NCAA Tournament game versus Marquette.
The Zips' road trip continues next week as they head home for a few days of practice before flying south to Florida on Wednesday in preparation for facing South Florida on Thursday night and Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday night. Akron opens their home schedule on Friday, Sept. 12 when they take on UCF as their first leg in The University of Akron Tournament.