August 24, 2011

Matadors Open Season With Home Match vs. Canisius

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors begin the 2011 season at home against Canisius on Friday, Aug. 26. You can catch all of the action against the Griffins on GameTracker by clicking the live stats link on GoMatadors.com. All home matches and select road matches will be available with live stats online. Check the schedule on GoMatadors.com before the start of each contest for details.

A Closer Look at Canisius

The Matadors will open the 2011 season with a non-conference home match against the Canisius Griffins on Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. Friday's home opener will mark the first time that these two programs have met on the soccer pitch.

The Griffins are coming off of a 3-13-1 season in 2010, which ended with a 3-6-0 mark and an eighth place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). The lone road win for Canisius came against conference foe Manhattan last October. After facing Northridge at Matador Soccer Field, the Griffins will head south to take on San Diego State on Sunday, Aug. 28.

Despite not making the postseason a year ago, Canisius returns a group of players that are ready to fight their way to the top of the conference. Junior midfielder Sam Zarka brings two goals and two assists from 2010 into this season and looks to be a key piece of both the offense and defense for head coach Jim Hesch. Zarka's six points are the most of any returning player for the Griffins.

Also back for his junior season is forward Regan Steele, who tallied one goal and two assists for four points last season. Steele finished third on the squad in points and tied for second with Zarka in assists. Junior goalkeeper Kareem Gray will remain in net for Canisius this season. Gray posted a 1.52 goals against average in 2010 but all three wins for the Griffins were clean sheets.

After the match against Canisius this weekend, the Matadors will have five days of rest before playing host to the 2011 Labor Day Classic. Northridge will face UNLV and Akron in the invitational on September 1 and 3, respectively.

Results from Last Week

The Matadors hosted the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros in an exhibition contest at Matador Soccer Field on August 20. Using the preseason tuneup to their advantage, the Matadors wasted little time in jumping out to a lead as Thomas Ramos collected a throw-in from Joe Franco and shot it past the goalkeeper for a goal in the 10th minute. Playing with a one-goal lead was not enough for Northridge as the team kept up the pace with swarming defense and constant offense.

Senior Rafael Garcia hit the post on a shot from distance and the ensuing rebound found the foot of Yuval Barak, who crossed it sneakily in front of the goal to Chris Smith, who slotted it into the open net to put Northridge ahead by two. The Matadors rode the 2-0 lead into halftime, but the scoring was far from over. In the 53rd minute, Franco served a ball from the right sideline to Brian Behrad, who was able to head it off of a bounce over a charging goalkeeper and into the net.

Exactly four minutes later the gap grew to four goals in favor or Northridge as a corner kick from Yarden Azulay was headed by Nicholas Hamilton to Luis Gutierrez, whose header found the back of the goal over an outstretched 'keeper. The final goal of the match was scored in the 70th minute by Christian Gonzalez Diaz who struck the ball into the lower right corner of the net after a cross from Taylor Bowlin that was set up by Franco. At the end of the contest, the Matadors came away with a 5-0 lead thanks to five different goal scorers.

Captain Assist

In last Saturday's exhibition match against Cal State Dominguez Hills, junior captain Joe Franco recorded three assists for the Matadors. He used his position as the right back to set up three different goal scorers on the night. His long throw-in in the 10th minute found Thomas Ramos in the box for a goal and a cross to Brian Behrad in the second half led to a score off the forward's head. Franco was also credited with an assist on Christian Gonzalez Diaz' goal as he sent a long through ball to Taylor Bowlin, who crossed it to Gonzalez Diaz for the score. While the stats from the exhibition are not official and will not be added to his career totals, the performance shown by Franco are promising as he assumes a role in the offense for Northridge. Prior to Saturday's friendly, Franco had scored one goal and one assist in his two seasons with the Matadors. His three-point match would have doubled his career points.

Scoring from All Positions

In Saturday's exhibition against Cal State Dominguez Hills, the Matador fans had a lot to cheer about as Northridge put five goals on the board. Five different players scored for CSUN and ten Matadors earned at least one point in the match. The goal scorers included three sophomores (Thomas Ramos, Chris Smith and Brian Behrad) and two newcomers to the program (Luis Gutierrez and Christian Gonzalez Diaz). Assists in the match included three from junior captain Joe Franco, senior Nicholas Hamilton, junior Taylor Bowlin, sophomore Yuval Barak, who redshirted the 2010 season, and freshman Yarden Azulay. In all, the Matadors showed that any player on the team has the capability to create opportunities and put the ball in the back of the net.

2011 Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic

The Cal State Northridge Matadors will once again host an invitational tournament at Matador Soccer Field. The 2011 Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic will take place across two days with matches on Thursday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 3 and will feature three teams in addition to Northridge. Defending national champion Akron, Big West rival Cal State Fullerton and the UNLV Rebels will all take part in the weekend showcase with each team playing two games.

The Classic will kick off at 4:30 p.m. with Cal State Fullerton taking on Akron in the first game. After the conclusion of the match, the Matadors will host UNLV at approximately 7 p.m. after a scheduled break of 30 minutes. On Saturday, Sept. 3, Cal State Fullerton will play UNLV in the first game at 4:30 p.m. with the Matadors squaring off against the Akron Zips at approximately 7 p.m. The first 100 students into the game with their student ID will receive a free Red Rally shirt and a vuvuzela courtesy of the University Student Union. Although Northridge will not face the Fullerton Titans in the Labor Day Classic, the two sides will play each other twice in the conference season, in Northridge on Saturday, Oct. 1 and in Fullerton on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Bring the Noise

Have a drum, cow bell, or other noisemaker lying around at home? Now is the time to bring it out and explore the space of Matador Soccer Field! The Big West Conference office announced this past summer that all noisemakers, with the exceptions of airhorns and whistles, will now be allowed at all conference matches and all home venues. As such, fans are encouraged to get into the action in a whole new way by making noise for their team during each contest. Previously, no outside noisemakers were permitted at any game and violaters were subject to removal from the site. To welcome in the new rule, the Matadors will be handing out a free vuvuzela, the horn-like instrument made famous worldwide during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, to the first 100 students with their CSUN ID at the home match on Saturday, Sept. 3 against defending NCAA national champion Akron at 7 p.m.

The New-Look Matadors

The Cal State Northridge Matadors will see an influx in new talent this season as 12 players on the squad are new to the program. In addition to four transfer student-athletes, Northridge has added eight true freshmen and will also see the return of freshman Edwin Rivas and sophomore Yuval Barak, who both redshirted the 2010 season. The added depth and youth at all positions will give Coach Davila more options for his attacking and defensive strategies and will also set the program up for long-term health and success.

You Cannot Spell Points Without the Letters 'O' and 'T'

Since joining the Big West in 2001, CSUN has played in 48 overtime games, and have failed to earn a point in only eight of those matches. The last time Northridge won a game in overtime took place in 2009 when CSUN scored the golden goal in overtime against the Cal State Fullerton Titans.

Top-Ten Talent

A number of Matadors earned a spot in the top-ten list within a variety of statistical categories amongst their Big West brethren in 2010. Midfielder Rafael Garcia finished tied for third in the conference with 49 shots taken, six assists, and a 0.35 assist per game average, and finished fourth in the conference averaging 2.88 shots per game. Gustavo Villalobos finished his impressive debut season tied for fifth with 47 shots per game and possessed the sixth-highest shots per game average with his 2.61 mark. Rounding out the list of Matadors is goalkeeper Michael Abalos, who finished third in saves with 74 and fourth in saves per game with his 4.11 average.

In For Six

Against Cal Poly on Oct. 6, 2010, midfielder Rafael Garcia not only scored the two CSUN goals to help them earn a point in the standings, but took a total of six shots that were all on goal. Since joining the Big West in 2001, no Matador had ever registered that many shots on goal in one game. On three occasions during his career at Northridge, Matador great Willie Sims recorded five shots on goal (September 10, 2004 vs. American, October 9, 2004 at UC Irvine, and September 17, 2005 vs. UNLV), as did current men's soccer associate head coach Yossi Raz in a home game against Denver on October 6, 2002. Both Sims and Raz held the team record for most shots on goal in one game before Garcia's eye-opening performance in San Luis Obispo took place.

The Friendly Confines

Of the 19 matches on the schedule this year, the Cal State Northridge Matadors will play just over half of their contests at Matador Soccer Field. Northridge will host ten games in 2011, including the Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic, squaring off against such programs as UNLV, SMU, UC Santa Barbara and defending national champion Akron. Since relocating from North Campus Stadium to their current facility before the start of the 2002 season, Matador Soccer Field has presented a strong advantage for the Matadors. In the 77 games played on-campus, CSUN possesses an overwhelming 50-19-8 record at home for a .701 winning percentage on their home turf.

Strength of Schedule

Known for assembling a tough non-conference schedule, the Cal State Northridge Matadors will once again take on a number of teams ranked in national polls throughout the season. As ranked in the preseason national poll by the NSCAA, the Matadors will face five squads in the top 25. Northridge will play host to No. 2 Akron on Sept. 3, No. 5 SMU on Sept. 23, No. 24 UC Irvine on Oct. 26 and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1. The Matadors will also travel to cross-town rival No. 6 UCLA on Oct. 22.

Welcome to the Century Club

With one additional victory, head coach Terry Davila will become the fifth coach in Big West history to win 100 games as a member of the conference. Even though Davila enters the 2011 season with 113 career wins to his credit, the first 14 were earned as member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. In 2001 the Matadors switched conference affiliation from the MPSF to the Big West, since then Davila's teams have compiled a 99-67-32 overall record (.580 pct.). With his victory over Cal State Fullerton on October 2nd, Davila became just the third head coach to win 50 or more Big West Conference matches.

Nifty at 50

With his victory over Cal State Fullerton on October 2nd, 2010, CSUN head coach Terry Davila became just the third head coach to win 50 or more Big West Conference matches. UC Santa Barbara's Tim Vom Steeg is the only other coach with 50 or more Big West victories to his credit.

Keep Your Heads on a Swivel

Last year, the Matador set their season team-highs in shots taken and shots on goal against the UC Riverside Highlanders. In the 2009 conference-opening match in Riverside, CSUN fired 30 shots at the Highlander goalkeeper, 15 of which were on goal. In 2010, the Matadors nearly matched that mark as they blasted 28 shots at the Highlander net, including ten on goal in their only contest of the season, which took place in Northridge.

Quick Out of the Gates

The Matadors are 19-7-4 in conference season openers, and have only been defeated once in a Big West opener. CSUN has not lost a conference opener since 2002, when they were on the wrong side of a 2-1 decision against UC Irvine at home. The last time the Matadors tied a conference opening match was in 2007 at Cal State Fullerton, the same squad they defeated to open the Big West season in 2010. The longest streak for conference opening wins in Matador history is 10 seasons, accomplished from 1978-87 under the direction of head coaches Zvi Friedman, Ric Fonseca and Marwan Ass'ad.

Rewriting the Record Books

One indication of the success goalkeeper Michael Abalos has earned so far in his career can be seen in the Matador record books as the San Juan Capistrano native earned a spot on four different lists with his numbers earned during his first two seasons at Northridge. Abalos now owns eighth place with his 10 career victories, is eighth all-time with his 1.44 career goals against average, and is tied for seventh all-time with Mike Caputo (1985-87) with his seven career shutouts. His five clean sheets earned in 2009 is also the seventh-highest number of shutouts earned in a season, tying him with Joe Barton (2001) and Mike Littman (1989) and their respective single-season performances.

Survey Says....

The 2011 Cal State Northridge men's soccer team received 20 points and was picked to finish fifth in the 2011 Big West Men's Soccer Preseason Coaches poll as announced by the league office in mid-August. Northridge was beat out by UC Irvine as the Anteaters earned 30 points to claim fourth place in the voting. Finishing in third place with 32 total points was Cal State Fullerton, with Cal Poly earning 40 points and a first-place vote to grab second place. UC Santa Barbara lead the way for the second year in a row with 48 points and six first place votes. UC Davis and UC Riverside rounding out the poll in sixth and seventh place respectively with 14 and 12 points.

Ticket Information

Tickets for all home men's matches are available through the CSUN Associated Students Ticket Office. Adults are $5, while youth 17 and under and seniors 60 and older are $3. There is also a $3 discounted rate ticket for CSUN Faculty/Staff, Military Service Personnel and CSUN Alumni Association Members with their respective identification cards. CSUN students receive free admission to all home games with their CSUN I.D. Groups of 10 or more people may purchase $3 tickets, but tickets must be purchased a minimum of 24 hours in advance. For more information, call the A.S. Ticket Office at 818-677-2488.

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