The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team fell to fifth-ranked New Mexico, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon in the final match of the Lobo Invitational.
Sunday’s victory was New Mexico’s 17th-straight home win; the Lobos have lost just once overall in the past two seasons.
“This really wasn’t a 3-0 game,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi.
“Our guys fought, battled and created a half-dozen very good chances and it very well could have been 3-2 or 3-3. It was a pretty wide open game and New Mexico was just a little bit more clinical inside the penalty box than we were, and that was the difference. We had one or two lapses defensively but our guys competed and played quite well, it’s just unfortunate that when you look at the scoreboard it doesn’t reflect that.”
Northern Illinois (1-5-2) had the first chance just 90 seconds into the contest as junior midfielder Karim Darbaki (Crystal, Minn./Shattuck St. Mary’s) took a shot that went wide from the top of the box.
The Huskies had another opportunity in the 16th minute off a corner by junior midfielder Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy). Senior defender Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) got his head to the corner and put his attempt on frame, forcing a save from New Mexico goalkeeper Victor Rodriguez.
New Mexico (7-1-0) opened the scored in the 20th minute as Devon Sandoval got on the end of a cross from Blake Smith and headed home to give the Lobos a 1-0 lead.
The Lobos doubled their advantage in the 30th minute when Sandoval got his second goal of the contest, and seventh of the season. Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) and a Huskie defender each went for a ball at the top of the NIU box but the ball was headed on toward the Huskie goal where Sandoval was the first to get there and put it away, giving New Mexico a 2-0 advantage.
Another opportunity fell to NIU in the 33rd minute when sophomore defender Dusty Page (Germantown, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) headed high of goal off a corner kick.
The Lobos held a 9-4 edge in shots in the opening 45 minutes, each goalkeeper made one save in the first half.
NIU had more chances in the early stages of the second half. Rivera forced a save from Rodriguez in the 57th minute and junior forward James Stevenson (Falkirk, Scotland/St. Mungo’s) had a couple of opportunities just before the hour mark.
Sophomore forward Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) had a shot go at goal in the 65th minute, but his effort was wide of the target.
New Mexico answered with a third just three minutes later as Smith got on the scoresheet. After his initial shot was blocked, the rebound came back to Smith who fired past Godsey at the near post.
Godsey finished with five saves in goal for NIU.
The Huskies will return to action Sunday, Sept. 30, when they open Mid-American Conference play at Florida Atlantic. Game time against the Owls is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.