Lobos in a pre-season game against the Air Force Academy
As August fades into September, universities around the nation are finally getting back for the new term. The University of New Mexico is no different. With a new school year comes a chance for another team to shine. At UNM, lately, that's been the soccer team, and hopes are high that this year will be no different.
The UNM men's soccer team begins the year with a pre-season ranking of #13 in the nation. Obviously expectations are high, and those hopes and dreams will be tested almost immediately as the Lobos gear up to take on the Akron Zips today (Friday, Aug. 29) in their regular season opener. Ranked fourth in the nation in the same poll, the Zips won a national championship in 2010 and made it to the second round of last year's NCAA tournament. With only two seniors on their squad and the early high ranking, this is a team to worry about now as well as later.
The Lobos, though, possess plenty strengths of their own. Notably, three on the team are ranked in the top 100 men's college soccer players in the nation and two—Ben McKendry and Kevin Correa—are only juniors. James Rogers, ranked #70, leads a roster that's crawling with seniors—six in total.
The men's soccer team returns seven starters and, for those with short memories, advanced to the semi-finals in last year's College Cup. UNM lost to eventual champion Notre Dame, but will obviously be looking to improve upon that record this year.
The schedule for the Lobos shows the home games in red, and it's a great idea to note that Lobo Pride Passes are still available. These passes grant admission to every regular season soccer game, as well as all regular season volleyball, track and field, softball and baseball home games and cost a mere 50 bucks.
L to R: Sol FC GM Larry Espinoza, Carlos Bracamontes, Carlos Valderrama and Sol FC president Ron Patel
On July 31, the Albuquerque Sol FC announced an exciting partnership with the International Sports Group that will bring a soccer match to the city unlike any we've seen before. The International Legends Cup plays out on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 4pm. The match features ex-World Cup players, including Carlos Valderrama and Carlos Bracamontes, who were introduced at the press conference. Sol FC president Ron Patel says the current plan is to host the game at the Lobo football field, though details are still being ironed out.
What's clear though is the scope of this partnership's ambition. A family-friendly mercado-style fair will be open to the public starting at noon, says Sol FC general manager Larry Espinoza. After the match concludes Grupo Pesado and Banda La Trakalosa de Monterrey take the field for a spirited concert. Grupo Pesado won the Latin Grammy Award for Best Norteño Album two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010.
Espinoza spoke of “aggressive pricing,” meaning he’s marketing the match as affordable with individual tickets starting at $30. Furthermore, family packs of four tickets will be available for $99. The tickets not only grant admission to the soccer match, but include the concert afterward. With the mercado opening at noon, the soccer match starting at 4pm and the concert starting when the game concludes, that's up to seven hours of entertainment for the price of a single ticket.
Valderrama and Bracamontes were cheered upon introduction. Both men are still well known on the international scene, and during the post-conference Q&A session, both were well-received by the crowd. The draw of these two is obviously the grand opening for the International Legends roster, but there are plenty more names to be revealed.
While the Sol FC entertained the crowds with the former players and announced the date and starting prices for the match, they also acknowledged there are plenty more details to come. The announced goal is to sell out the Lobo football field—on the presumption that the match actually happens there. However, despite the press conference, the final location is not yet certain, nor are tickets yet available, nor has the full final lineup been announced. Both the Albuquerque Sol FC's Twitter account and their Facebook page should have more information as the details continue to be worked out, and the Alibi will continue to pursue clarification.
In the doldrums of summer, there's a dearth of new sports activity for true diehards to embrace. The NHL and NBA championships have long passed and the NFL season is still months from truly starting. While MLB's All-Star Game just occurred—with a stirring tribute to retiring Yankee Derek Jeter as one of the hallmarks—the season doesn't get really interesting, even for baseball lovers, for at least another month.
However, there are a couple notable events that are worth the sports fan's attention and effort. First of all, the WNBA has taken to branding itself the “Summer Break” of basketball. While condescending in at least one light, the All-Star Game was played just last weekend, with the East winning in overtime. The story behind the game-winner by Tamika Catchings is worth it even for a casual fan: While Catchings had been ruled out of the WNBA season until July 5, she was still voted into the game by fans and hit the crucial layup. The highlights package of the game includes a look at one of the most surefire locks as a future star in the league—All-Star Game MVP Shoni Schimmel. It even features the circus shot in the 4th quarter with 3 minutes remaining that everyone should be—but probably isn't—talking about.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
Meanwhile, many Americans still feel the sting of having cared about soccer once a quadrennium. And that oh-so-familiar defeat doesn't hurt any less for being so consistent. So Grantland has published a handy guide on how to continue being a soccer fan in America. This is especially useful so we can hope to avoid another spate of articles in approximately three years and 300 days about how this is finally the World Cup where soccer breaks through in America. The MLS may not have a team in New Mexico, but the PDL does—and there may be some exciting news from the Albuquerque Sol FC coming up soon.
Last but not least, it's never too early, especially in a self-billed fishbowl town like Albuquerque, to think about collegiate sports. With Cameron Bairstow signing a contract to play on the Chicago Bulls with fellow ex-Lobo Tony Snell, there's plenty of reason to believe the Lobos will continue to push out great talent. And the Lobo football team looks to continue their upward swing.
Don't simply satisfy yourself with tracking your next fantasy football team or counting down to baseball's playoffs; enjoy some of the sports that are happening right now.
In Alibi-centric news: We clarified our critical and satirical intentions in response to an anti-Ted Nugent missive. Perhaps more importantly, we published loads of excellent new content. If you're saving the print ish for weekend reading, scope highlights like
And since local is the best reflection of the national, this is an apt time to mention that Albuquerque is developing their own semi-professional soccer team, the Sol FC.
In an exclusive interview with the Alibi, Sol FC General Manager Larry Espinoza shared his vision for the future of the team in Albuquerque, reveled in a bit of local pride and reflected on the beginning of this year's World Cup and this new venture in the 505.
The Sol opened their inaugural season on May 3 in Las Vegas, playing against the Mobsters of the USL Premier Developmental League (PDL). Before that, though, there was a lot of work before the season began—and before the team was even formed. Espinoza says that he and Ron Patel, president of the team, have put in the work, but they haven't been alone. The team runs with the help of an extensive network of volunteers: everyone from high school students to a social media guru, running both the official Twitter account as well as their Instagram.
Albuquerque Sol FC may be merely a fourth-tier team this year, but Espinoza says the attendance in our fair city is smashing the competition. “The average [attendance] for PDL is 200. Our first home game, we had more than our five opponents’ previous games combined.” Not surprising, given the documentation of fans' desire for a local, professional soccer team.
However, the transition up the ranks of the PDL obviously will not—and cannot—happen overnight. Espinoza says the plan is to continue to move up the ranks: “Probably not next year, but maybe the year after, really make a push to go USL Pro.” That, however, will involve getting a 5,000-seat stadium into the picture. So the team and its affiliates plan to go before the New Mexico State Legislature. “We'll do our homework. We'll go before the legislature again this February. We believe we'll get the money. There's a lot of things that have to be included to build an MLS team. We believe we can build that.”
The biggest signs that this team is already a success, though, can't be counted, unlike attendance figures. Nor can those successes be summarized as succinctly as Espinoza's repeated afirmations. The true success of the team shines when you get to see a game in person, where you'll hear the PA guy 'sponsoring' yellow cards with bail bonds companies and hear about a highlighted charity at each game. The intensely personal feel of both the physical and mental spacemakes this a truly Albuquerque team.
That local spotlight will grab an even bigger stage at the last home game of the season on Saturday July 12. Espinoza claims, “If you played soccer in Albuquerque, you know the name Pat Grange.” Grange was a local soccer legend, whose tragic diagnosis with ALS led to his untimely death at 29 years of age. ESPN showcased his story recently. The game on Saturday, July 12 will be dedicated to Pat Grange and the Albuquerque Sol FC will retire his jersey. Espinoza says he's in talks to make sure Grange's parents are guests of honor. And the charity the Sol will be partnering with for their last home game? The ALS Association.
As a great way to celebrate the legacy of soccer in the city of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico, the Sol FC's last home game stands head and shoulders above any other options. And, while you're at the game, think about what this team could mean for the future as well.
The Sol have five home games remaining, all of which are played on the Ben Rios field at St. Pius high school. Tickets can be obtained at the gate for $10 on game day. Children's tickets are only $5, and they can both be bought ahead of time online, but you will pay a handling fee.
On Friday afternoon, the University of New Mexico soccer team lost in the Final Four of the NCAA post-season tournament. Although UNM did a good job of controlling possession and took as many shots on goal as the Fighting Irish did, they allowed an early slip in defense, which led opportunistic Patrick Hodan to a goal in the seventh minute. With that disadvantage ensconced in their minds, the Lobos refused to play timid, challenging the staunch Notre Dame offense again and again.
As the second half began, though, and time started to slip through the fingers of the Cherry and Silver, things got a bit more tight. The set pieces started to develop for both teams—there were no corner kicks in the first half, and 8 total in the second. UNM still played the role of the aggressor, but it was clear by the mid-point of the second half that it was because they had to, not because they wanted to. Finally, in the 65th minute, Notre Dame connected again with the back of the net. Again, it was Hodan, this time off an extremely odd miss, hammered off the crossbar by Vince Cicciarelli and followed up on by Hodan after an unlucky Lobo touch.
From then on, it was desperation mode for coach Jeremy Fishbein and his crew; watching their magical season evaporate in front of their eyes and on ESPNU. When the final whistle sounded, UNM was still down 0-2, and Notre Dame was advancing, although their opponent was still to be determined at the time. Later Friday evening, Maryland took down Virginia for their place in the national title match.
There have got to be several consolations to ending the season in a loss, even in the face of departure from their seniors. Kyle Venter has been invited to the MLS Super Draft and is almost certain to be selected, while goalkeeper Michael Lisch and a pair of Michaels—Kafarri and Calderon—will all be gone next year, even if they don't all make it to the MLS. But the silver lining to these heavy contributors leaving the team is that there is a strong youth movement behind them. For a team that sometimes felt like it was overachieving this year, there's a solid foundation to build upon next year. And, much like this year's eventual champion, Notre Dame, there's a strong chance the Lobos will come back stronger next season.
The Lobos played yet another fantastic season and have much to be proud of. The future looks bright.
The Lobo soccer team continued its roll in the NCAA post-season tournament on Sunday, winning the match against Penn State by a final score of 2-0. The opportunities for more scoring in the match were numerous, but the Lobos just could not connect for the extra insurance. However, as the clock ticked down the seconds of the Sweet Sixteen game, it became apparent that the bonus points weren't needed—the Lobos are now headed back to the Elite Eight for their second time since 2005.
The Lobos will match up in Seattle against the University of Washington Huskies, where the current head coach is Jamie Clark—a man well-known in Albuquerque for his role as an assistant coach to the Lobos from 2002 to 2005. Clark served under current head coach Jeremy Fishbein and was present for some of the most exciting times in Lobo soccer. Ultimately, he would depart the Cherry and Silver squad when an opportunity arose at Notre Dame, where he would assist under his father. After brief stints at Harvard and Creighton, Clark has now taken the Huskies to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.
Neither Washington nor UNM have faced ranked opponents in the Tournament thus far, but if the Lobos win the game on Saturday, they'll have to travel again. Their opponent, should they win in Washington? Either an upstart Michigan State team, or the Notre Dame team that Clark left UNM to work with.
Either way, Coach Fishbein, cognizant of having been here before, says he would love to continue playing at home, but the team is ready to take the battle up to Washington. As one of only three programs in the nation to make three consecutive Sweet Sixteens, the Lobos will look to match or beat their prior best; the last time UNM made it past the Sweet Sixteen, they went all the way to the national championship game, before ultimately falling to Maryland.
The UNM/UW game will be streamed online Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6pm MST and should be shown at various bars around town. The soccer program is making waves yet again as an organization worth the time to support.
The University of New Mexico Men's Lobo soccer team will play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a home game on Sunday, Nov. 24, at 5pm. The Lobos will host George Mason at home as a result of their 7 seed, which is the second-highest in school history. (In 2005, the Lobos received a 2 seed.)
Despite losing in the C-USA Tournament last week, the Lobos were rewarded by the selection committee for a fantastic season. The Lobos have now made the NCAA post-season 11 in the last 13 seasons.
George Mason advanced to Albuquerque by defeating William & Mary on Thursday night by a final score of 2-2 that had to be decided by penalty kicks. The PKs ended up 4-2 in GMU's favor and the match was in the books. The George Mason Patriots finished up their season with a record of 12-2-5 and were the champions of the Atlantic 10 conference.
When it comes time for the match on Sunday night, the Lobo soccer club will be positively littered with honors, both on and off the field. On Thursday, the Lobos received yet another Team Academic Award, rewarding our student-athletes for posting a cumulative team-wide 3.43 GPA. The academics are impressive, but there's no doubt that the men on the club will be looking to pick up another win to extend their season.
On Tuesday night, the US Men's National Soccer team won a game—which wasn't a surprise—but the overall results of the night had an odd side effect: With a win in the match, against Panama by a score of 3-2, the United States helped their greatest regional rival, Mexico, retain hope that they'd qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
For a long bit in the game, it didn't look as though the US—already securely qualified for the World Cup—would pull out the victory. Panama scored in the 18th minute, securing a lead for themselves that would last the vast majority of the game.
When the Americans finally came back with an equalizer—Michael Orozco in the 64th minute with a sweet header off the vaunted set piece of the corner kick—it felt like the tide had shifted a bit. But Team USA was never able to fully capitalize and Panama continued to push the game in their direction. What seemed like the final blow came in minute 83, as Luis Tejada put in a ball that had been deflected by American goalkeeper Brad Guzan in superior fashion, which the US defense was too slow to effectively clear. Tejada ran off the field, tore off his shirt—and the country of Panama celebrated. This seemed to most observers to do two things: vault Panama into the World Cup matches and knock Mexico out, as they'd lost to Costa Rica earlier in the evening.
But Jurgen Klinsmann teams have been taught to continue fighting. The Americans did precisely that, despite sitting some of their more established stars for whatever reason. (Whether the Americans were sandbagging the game or not does not seem truly important.) With three minutes of stoppage time added to the clock, Team USA was down 1-2 and, somehow, improbably, the Americans scored twice in that time span to send Panama into a tail spin and Mexico into a fevered frenzy, their chances still alive.
Graham Zusi absolutely nailed a header off one of the sweetest crosses in the 92nd minute and the game morphed into something else. Mere moments later, Aron Johannsson demolished the hopes of Panama with a bullet of a shot. Johannsson's goal resulted in the game's conclusion less than a minute later, no hopes of extra time, no hopes of future games—at least not for Panama.
With the victory, the US Men's National Team racked up a record-tying 22 points in the qualifying stages and added some mojo back to their current streak. Earlier in the year, the Americans possessed the then-longest winning streak in the world—13 games—and the team will surely remember this game as a fantastic example of not folding when they could have easily done so. Team USA's next match will be an international friendly in Scotland on Nov. 15.
The Americans had lost their last game, against Costa Rica, on Friday night. They were whooped, 1-3, and they lost the mental edge of having the longest win streak in the world, at 12. Moreover, they lost Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler for the Mexico match due to those players picking up their second yellow cards of the qualification process. Michael Bradley also sat out against Mexico, having suffered a freak injury during warmups when he sprained his left ankle.
Due to those absences—particularly Altidore, whose performance for the team has been impressive, to say the least—and the long-standing disadvantage America has maintained while facing Mexico, there were some who doubted the team's chances despite the home field advantage. However, the Mexican team seems to be in complete disarray, suffering from the endless tailspin that inevitably follows a sudden departure from previously winning ways.
However, when it came time to get things done, the team stepped up as a whole with their depth tested, and the team answered the call. The previous stars were particularly adept, with Eddie Johnson scoring in the 49th minute, once again off a header. He was spelled by Mikkel Diskerud in the 76th minute. Reviled when his plan didn't seem to be taking right away, coach Jurgen Klinsmann now looks like a genius, particularly when it comes to substitutions. Diskerud played a smart ball of a throw in with a deft first touch, putting the ball right in front of the Mexico goal. Clint Dempsey had a brilliant look at the clincher but whiffed his attempt. Luckily, Landon Donovan was there, as he's been for Team USA ever since making his comeback. Donovan put his goal in at the 78th minute.
When Honduras tied Panama nearly an hour after the USA/Mexico game finished, the work of the night was complete. Team USA is now officially qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It's worth noting that, of the 207 nations in the world who compete in the qualification process, only 32 make it. Eight nations have won the World Cup; the United States is not amongst that number. With this qualification, though, the United States becomes only the 13th nation to qualify for the ultimate tournament 10 times.