Against a backdrop of a newly, snow-covered Taos Mountain, five men's soccer programs showed their stuff at the Taos Eco Park's Spring Soccer Expo Saturday (April 16). The University of New Mexico, the United States Air Force Academy, Fort Lewis College, Colorado State University-Pueblo and the Albuquerque Sol played in cold, wet and snowy conditions that felt more like the dead of winter than early spring.
Before UNM and the Air Force academy could kick off the Expo, the two squads had to shovel snow off the field. The Lobos and Falcons took turns shoveling and had the field completely cleared by kick off. When the opening whistle finally blew after the snow delay, both squads quickly jumped into competition mode. Within the first 16 minutes a red card was issued to a UNM defenseman for a hard tackle out of bounds on an Air Force player.
Air Force delivered the only score of the first half with a goal at the 24 minute mark. UNM struggled to answer, with very few shots on goal for the remainder of the half and into the start of the second half. At the 24 minute mark though, UNM tied Air Force with a shot from forward Matt Dorsey, and quickly took the lead with another quick score at the 26 minute mark by the Lobos’ Niko Hansen.
After some rough play and multiple yellow and red cards, Air Force scored a 30 yard goal during a penalty kick to tie up the game once again. The game ended at a 2-2 tie and the teams quickly scrambled off the field to seek shelter from the inclement weather.
UNM 2 - Fort Lewis 1
The driving snow and cold temperatures did not seem to bother UNM's Niko Hansen Saturday afternoon against Fort Lewis College. The junior had two first half goals against the Skyhawks and led the Lobos to a victory in their Taos Eco Park Spring Soccer Expo finale.
Hansen broke away from the Skyhawk defense off an assist from Chris Wehan 31 minutes into the first half to put the Lobos up 1-0. Hansen added his second goal of the day, and his fifth goal in four spring season starts, a minute later off a chip from Devin Boyce to stretch UNM's lead to 2-0.
Laurin Weiland put Fort Lewis on the board with a late penalty kick in the second half after UNM's Rus Bigege was whistled for a hand ball in the box.
“We just had a little bit of a mental lapse. Physically we got a little bit tired,” UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. “It was an unfortunate handball.”
The Skyhawks threatened in the final minutes but did not have enough energy left to put another goal through.
“It was too little, too late,” said Fort Lewis head coach David Oberholtzer.
During the spring season, Fishbein said he likes to see how the Lobos handle challenging situations. The Spring Soccer Expo created plenty of adversity with the nasty weather and playing conditions. After the Lobos' win over Fort Lewis, Fishbein was happy with how his team handled the day's obstacles.
“All in all it was a good a day...I am happy with our guys,” he said.
United States Air Force Academy 3 - CSU-Pueblo 0
Out-manned, out gunned and out played, the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves struggled to advance the ball on their side of the field against the Air Force Academy in the second game of the day and lost 3-0. Due to low visibility and continued snowfall, the game was called after just one half of play.
Albuquerque Sol 1- CSU-Pueblo 1
The Albuquerque Sol and CSU-Pueblo played the final game of the day through a steady snowfall and temperatures that dipped into the 30s. The two teams slogged through a scoreless first half and struggled to get in a groove with a wet, slippery ball.
Mike Chism put the Thunderwolves on the board when he put a scored off a failed Sol clear 44 minutes into the game.
The Sol had several chances in the second half and finally broke through when Rafa Amaya found the back of the net at the 60 minute mark. Both teams had chances to grab the lead in the final minute but were unable to put the game away.
CSU-Pueblo head coach Roy Stanley said the wet and snowy field had a bigger impact on his teams than the cold temperatures. The wet field slowed down the ball he said.
Stanley hit the road satisfied with how the Thunderwolves fared against the Sol, a team that competes in the Premier Development League, a pre-professional league with teams scattered throughout the country.
“I thought we matched up real well,” Stanley said. “I enjoyed the way my guys played.”
Taos native and Taos High School graduate Patrick Pacheco played for the Sol against the Thunderwolves. Pachecho had a few shots on goal and played an active role in the Sol's offensive attack.