By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team has been able to keep opponents close most of the season. It’s finding enough offense that has been the problem.
Northeastern State handed the Greyhounds their fourth consecutive setback, all by one goal, when junior forward Ludinei Picelli Filho scored on a free kick late in the first half for a 1-0 Southwest Soccer Conference victory on Sunday at the ENMU pitch.
ENMU (2-7-1, 1-6-0 SSC) has scored 16 goals this season, but more than half came in one match — a 9-0 rout of Colorado Christian.
The Hounds, who lost 1-0 in overtime to Missouri Southern on Friday, again were unsuccessful in converting the relatively few good scoring chances they had. Forward Jonathan Holman and midfielder Rhen Salas were turned away by Northeastern goalkeeper Devon Murray in the first half, and forward Albert Robertson fired over the net on a fairly good look from the right wing in the second half.
“We had some good opportunities, but we can’t finish right now,” ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said. “We played well today, the first half for sure.
“It’s tough; guys are at each other’s throats, but we’re not a poor team. We have to work it all out and come back to be a better team.”
The Redmen (3-7-0, 3-4-0) took advantage of a foul by ENMU’s Adam Diehl to set up what proved to be the deciding free kick for Fihlo, a Brazilian. He shot right of ENMU’s wall, and the ball curled back into the right corner of the net.
As the match went on, it became apparent the goal might stand up.
“I thought it would when (Eastern) shifted into a 4-5-1 (alignment),” first-year Northeastern coach Bobby Peterson said. “Then they switched and moved two boys up, and that gave us some trouble.”
The Redmen, second in the SSC last season and a regional playoff qualifier, have struggled for most of this season with a mostly-new team, although they were competitive Friday in a 2-1 loss at league-leading West Texas A&M.
“They’re a good side, probably the best team in the conference,” Peterson said of WT. “But coming here and winning is good. We’re just trying to get going.”
Elizondo has been disappointed in the play of his forwards, but had to move more people up with the Hounds struggling to score. Then when Diehl was given a red card and ejected with about 10 minutes left, Elizondo said it created a problem because they were playing shorthanded and had to be able to defend.
Elizondo didn’t think the red card was in order for Diehl’s tackle on a Northeastern player.
“There was no malicious intent on his tackle,” he said.
“Adam had won the ball and (the officials) weren’t going to call anything (until) their guy went down and started yelling.”
After dropping the first two in a six-match homestand, the Hounds will try to get on track this weekend with out-of-conference matches Friday against Texas-Permian Basin and Saturday against the College of the Southwest.
Southwest Soccer Conference
Sunday at Portales
Northeastern State 1, ENMU 0
Northeastern State 1 0 — 1
ENMU 0 0 — 0
NSU — Ludinei Filho, 36:05
Shots on goal — Northeastern State 7, Eastern New Mexico 7. Corner kicks — Northeastern State 5, Eastern New Mexico 5. Saves — Northeastern State 7 (Devon Murray 3, Jason Schulz 4), Eastern New Mexico 6 (Leif Craddock 3, team 3). Fouls — Northeastern State 9, Eastern New Mexico 18. Red cards — Northeastern State none, Eastern New Mexico 1 (Adam Diehl, ejected). Yellow cards — Northeastern State none, Eastern New Mexico 3 (Diehl, Donnell Jackson, Matt Thomas). Records — Northeastern State 3-7-0 (3-4-0), Eastern New Mexico 2-8-1 (1-6-0).A — 100