New Mexico 4, Portland 1



ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ? Portland looked crisp, threatening and full of energy through the first 45 minutes, but ran out of steam down the stretch in the unfamiliar altitude and fell 4-1 to the University of New Mexico in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the UNM Soccer Complex. The Pilots (12-8-2) carried an early 1-0 lead and were tied heading into halftime, but surrendered three goals in the final eight minutes to the Lobos (17-1-1).

New Mexico, seeded 13th in the tournament despite a No. 1 ranking in the final Soccer America poll, advances and will play fourth-seeded Virginia, while the Pilots bow out in the second for the third consecutive season.

Portland looked fresh early, nearly scoring a goal in the third minute as redshirt freshman midfielder Matthew Dallman?s attempt from inside the penalty area was cleared off the goal-line by a New Mexico defender.

The Pilots wasted little time in rebounding as junior midfielder Heath Pearce gave Portland the early lead in the eighth minute with a rifle just under the crossbar from the top of the penalty area. Junior midfielder Sean Babcock found Pearce with a rolling corner corner kick. It was Pearce?s fifth goal of the season and the second assist for Babcock. New Mexico had allowed just one goal at home all season previously, running to an 8-0 regular season record on their home pitch.

The lead was short-lived as Lobos? leading scorer Jeff Rowland found himself unmarked in the goal box with only Pilot keeper Luis Robles to beat in the 11th minute. Rowland?s initial shot was stopped from point blank range, but he gathered the rebound and his next attempt from five yards on the right side deflected off of retreating Portland defender Michael Gavin and inside the near post. Rowland tied a New Mexico single-season record with his 19th strike of the year.

Portland outshot the Lobos 8-5 for the half including a 4-0 edge in corner kicks. The Pilots seemed to hit a wall of fatigue as the second half progressed and New Mexico capitalized with a flurry of shots late in the match.

In the 58th minute, UP leading scorer Alejandro Salazar was nearly gifted a one-on-one with UNM goalie Andrew Weber as a Lobos defender did not have enough steam on a back pass to the keeper. Weber came outside the box to challenge and Salazar was unable to get a clean touch as the Lobo defense collapsed.

Rowland had a good look from inside the area that sailed high in the 79th minute for the Lobos. Two minutes later Patrick Grange?s rocket sailed just wide right and then Lance Watson had an opening from the top of the box inch over the crossbar.

UNM grabbed the lead in the 82nd minute as Grange finished to an open net from close range after the ball went from right to left through Jeff Krause and Rowland. Robles came off his line in an attempt to stop the initial cross by Krause, but Rowland toed the ball on to Grange for his sixth goal of the season.

Four minutes later, with the Pilots pushing forward in a 3-4-3 formation, Grange took another cross from Rowland and got enough of a push with his right foot for the ball to crawl over the goal-line. Lance Watson capped the scoring at the 89:16 mark, gathering a loose ball following a scrum and depositing it into the net for his eighth goal of the season.

When they got their second goal, we had to start pushing forward,? said Portland director of soccer Bill Irwin. ?We were either going to tie the game or give up another goal, but we had no choice that late in the game.?

We didn?t maintain possession as well in the second half,? said senior defender Paul Robinson, playing in his fourth consecutive postseason. ?We were the better team in the first half when both teams had the same level of energy.?

New Mexico racked up 16 second-half shots, seven on goal, as Portland managed just two. Rowland finished with six shots and Grange had five to lead the Lobos. Pearce finished with three to pace Portland.

-- Courtesy Portland