No. 19/19 Kentucky took the lead twice, but New Mexico equalized twice and outlasted the Wildcats in the penalty shootout to advance in the Conference USA Men’s Soccer Tournament, on Wednesday at Marshall’s Veteran’s Memorial Soccer Complex.
Kentucky now has a 2016 record of won 11, lost four, drew three. Wednesday’s result went down as a draw, with New Mexico advancing on penalties.
New Mexico will play regular-season champion and No. 5/10-ranked Charlotte in the semifinals on Friday.
Landon Souder, who started a second-straight game at right back, broke the deadlock on nine minutes.
Charlie Reymann delivered a corner kick into a dangerous part of the box, and New Mexico goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu couldn’t collect allowing Souder to put just enough on the ball to get it across the goal line.
But New Mexico’s response was swift as the Lobos hit Kentucky on a break four minutes later
Niko Hansen sprayed a ball from the top of the box rightward for Chris Wehan who took a touch and shot right-footed across goal and in at the left post.
Connor Probert gave UK a 2-1 lead with 9:40 to play.
Kentucky’s goal-scoring move unsurprisingly was started by midfield maestro Napo Matsoso. Held in check for much of the match to that point, he found just enough space in the center of midfield with one of his trademarked turns to release Charlie Reymann along the left.
Kentucky’s assist machine whipped a left-footed cross into the box where Andrew McKelvey got onto it. His sliding shot was blocked, but McKelvey was first to it and he scrambled the ball to a waiting Probert just right of the penalty spot. A day after being named to the C-USA All-Freshman Team, Probert smashed his shot past an onrushing goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
The lead was another short one and lasted just three minutes when New Mexico was awarded a free kick just outside the box two yards off the end line.
Nicholas Rochowski headed in Sam Gleadle’s service to knot things up.
Neither team could break through in the remainder of the 90, plus two 10-minute overtimes, so Kentucky found itself in a penalty shootout for the first time since Nov. 9, 2012 when UK lost to No. 9 Southern Methodist in the C-USA semifinals.
Stuart Ford was a star, making three saves in the shootout, but only Hampus Agerström was able to convert for UK as New Mexico advanced 2-1 on PKs.
Kentucky season snapshot
The Wildcats have won 11 games for the third season in a row. Kentucky went undefeated (8-0-2) at home for the first time in program history.
Kentucky went 2-0 against teams ranked in the top-10 of the most recent Ratings Percentage Index, released Nov. 6, and 4-1-3 against top-50 teams.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
New Mexico is now 10-6-2.
Kentucky leads the all-time series 3-1-1. New Mexico snapped a three-match losing streak in the series. Kentucky defeated New Mexico 1-0, in September at The Bell.
Charlie Reymann added to his C-USA-bet assist total (nine).
Landon Souder scored his first goal as a Wildcats.
Probert scored for the third time this season.
“It was tough, we played a great game,” Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren said. “I thought the guys really battled. New Mexico’s a very, very good team so I’m proud of the guys. To take the lead, we had the lead 1-0 and then 2-1 so to end up in a tie is a little disappointing. We gave up a goal on a set piece to make it 2-2 so that’s something we have to look at.
“In the end it’s not the end of the world because it’s a tie. I think we have an impressive résumé so we’ll hope to get some good news when the committee makes a decision. It’s never fun, it’s ever ok to lose, but I think we played really well today. The guys hung in there and played together so now we just have to keep training and wait and see what happens.”
UK Soccer in C-USA
Kentucky and South Carolina play in C-USA in men’s soccer only. The SEC does not offer men’s soccer as a sport, and as such the two teams compete in Conference USA as “affiliate members.” South Carolina is the only other SEC university that has a varsity men’s soccer team. New Mexico is also a C-USA “affiliate member.”
The best coverage of UK men’s soccer is available via UKMensSoccer handles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
by Jake Most