When head coach Jeremy Fishbein says he is not afraid to be challenged, he means it. The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team has played four games this season, and all four of those opponents have been ranked at some point.
“Our goal as a program is to compete for a national championship…. that’s why we schedule like we schedule,” Fishbein said. “We want to play the best team’s in the country day in and day out.”
New Mexico started 2018 at home with a 4-2 victory over the then-No. 22 Seattle Redhawks. Two days later the team fell 2-0 to the then-No. 24 Washington. After defeating the Lobos in Albuquerque, the Huskies climbed up to the No. 3 spot in the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll. New Mexico did not get ranked but did start receiving votes.
Once it was time to hit the road, the Lobos flew to California to take on two other opponents. First it was CSUN, a team that was unranked at the time, but got listed as No. 25 by Top Drawer soccer after the Matadors’ 1-0 win over UNM. The Lobos showed the potential of their offense by outshooting CSUN 14-10 and 9-4 in shots. They finally converted that potential when they faced Cal State Fullerton. College Soccer News ranked the Titans as the No. 30 team after the first week of the season. New Mexico won 5-1 with sophomore Nick Taylor pulling off a brace.
Certainly an impressive way to bounce back, but was New Mexico exceeding expectations?
“It’s not fair to any one of our players to ever say, ‘You’re exceeding expectations.’ They expect to win,” Fishbein said. “That’s the mind set that our guys have. I would be doing them a disservice to say that they are exceeding expectations. I think they would say that they are disappointed they dropped two games. I would hope that’s what they say.”
For their fifth game of the season, the competition is not getting any easier. New Mexico hits the road again for a Friday night matchup in Oklahoma. The opponent is Tulsa, a team that last week was in the Top 25 in three different national polls. They achieved this thanks to a strong opening weekend in which the Golden Hurricane took down the then-No. 15 Michigan, and tied the then-No. 4 Michigan State. Last week, Tulsa was ranked No. 23 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, No. 19 in College Soccer News and No. 15 by Top Drawer Soccer.