bleedCrimson.net: You take on rival UNM on Friday night, the first meeting between the two programs, they're an established program with good tradition.
Michael Needham: We're excited about going up there. It'll be a game we play every year and the first one will be special. I'm looking forward to a great environment. I think we should have a huge crowd there tomorrow night. They always draw good crowds. They've been around for a little while and they've done a good job and I'm sure it'll be pretty hostile and definitely a fun one to play in.
bc.net: Having been an assistant at UNLV, how much of an advantage is that for your team since you're more familiar with their style of play than against an opponent who you've never seen before?
MN: I don't know how much of an advantage that is. I know Kit and Jorge pretty well and they know me pretty well but every year, if you're a good coach and I consider myself a good coach, you're going to be a little bit different. The players are going to be a little bit different. If I had played them last year then I could say, "Okay, now I know some of their players."
In playing them four years ago when I was at UNLV, they're a far different team and a far different program. They've done a nice job of building that thing. I have ideas of how they might play but the player personnel is the thing that really changes all the time.
bc.net: What kind of style of play does UNM have?
MN: They're very tough defensively, they don't give up a lot of goals. They've got a solid goal keeper who's doing a great job and they attack. They commit a lot of numbers going forward and they really ask you to have to defend them. That's good because it'll open up the game and the game will be exciting and it will be up and down. It'll be a fun night.
bc.net: You've got Northern Arizona coming in on Sunday. You played them last season and it was one of the few times that you lost by more than one goal (3-1).
MN: Northern Arizona was very good last year. They were on that night up at their place, in altitude and they're flying around. It as a game where they were on and we weren't.
We're looking forward to it. Any time you get to play a team the second time you have a little bit more of an idea what to expect from them. They're very athletic, they're physical and they've got some good soccer players to go in the mix and they've got kids that can score goals. They manufacture goals. They play Arizona tomorrow [Friday] night. It'll be real interesting to see how that result goes for them. They lost 4-3 to Arizona State then they lost 1-0 to UTEP. They're a very good team, it's an important game for us on our schedule. It prepares us for games that we're going to play in conference. They're very similar to several teams in our conference and how they play and how they commit to play.
All these games, especially these two games this weekend absolutely prepare us for where we want to be on October 1st when we play Nevada.
bc.net: How far has your team come through the first three games this season versus the first three games last season?
MN: I think the decided difference is we were 0-3 last year and this year we're 2-0-1. That's the biggest difference. The confidence level is higher, the belief in their ability is higher. Our belief in them is higher, we're not just trying to defend, we're going out and playing games. That's the big difference. We feel like we can attack and go at people, that makes for a more wide open game and that's more exciting for everybody. It's more exciting for us and it's definitely more exciting for fans. I would venture to say that we're almost at our shot total for the whole year last year after three games. You take shots and you score goals, that's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to attack people and be dangerous.
bc.net: Your team has been able to score some goals in the first three games this season and last year's team had some trouble scoring goals early in the season. How important has it been for your team to be able to see the ball go into the back of the net early?
MN: It's very important. You always hear teams that are searching for goals and "we played well but we didn't score goals" and that kind of thing. I think to this point we've played well, we haven't played our best but we've seen goals go in the goal in all of our games and multiple goals which is great. We're creating chances and we're creating good chances, not just chances where we launch balls at the goal from 35 yards out, we're getting where we want to get on the field to get shots. That'll continue to get better and it will need to get better because our schedule picks up going through the next seven games to finish up non-conference. We're very happy to see the ball go into the back of the net. You never want to be searching for goals as you're going through the year. We'll see if we can keep that going this weekend.
bc.net: Your defense has been pretty good through the first three games as well only giving up two goals in the first three.
MN: I think the back four is coming together. We were a little shaky against Montana, I didn't think we were as good as we could be. We kind of gave up a bad goal there, we gave up a bad goal against Jacksonville State. The good thing about bad goals is you can correct them. These kids have been working hard. In training yesterday we worked on some stuff that we know we're going to see tomorrow night. It's an integral part of it. You've got to score goals but you can't give up a lot either. Right now we have a pretty decent balance, we're just looking to keep that going.