NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors (2-4-1) played hard until the final whistle but were unable to erase the deficit in a 1-0 loss to the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (4-3-0) on Friday night at Matador Soccer Field. The match was the first for the Matadors in over a week and marked the 2011 regular-season debut of senior midfielder Rafael Garcia, who had been sidelined with an injury sustained in Northridge's exhibition match against CSU Dominguez Hills on Aug. 20.
The two sides played to a scoreless tie in the first half of action as the Matadors maintained a physical style of play in the midfield and stifling defense. At the end of the first 45 minutes, SMU led narrowly in shots (6-5) and Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos recorded two of his three saves.
The Matadors had a few chances at goal in the first half, none closer than a shot in the 10th minute by Rene Anguiano that was saved in front of the net by SMU goalkeeper Jaime Ibarra. Other opportunities for Northridge included shots by defender Yuval Barak, midfielder Chris Smith and forward Christian Gonzalez Diaz that all missed just wide of the mark.
SMU had two promising chances for a score of its own in the first half, but shots by Juan Castillo in the 11th minute and Payton Hickey in the 33rd minute were both saved following strong efforts by Abalos.
The second half was played evenly between the sides as both tried to be the first to break the deadlock. A corner kick for SMU in the 48th minute was headed just over the crossbar and a header attempt by Northridge's Brian Behrad flicked just wide of the net.
The Mustangs were finally able to break through, however, in the 58th minute as a long run up the right sideline by Damian Rosales led to a Castillo cross that found Tyler Engel at the left side of the net. Engel corralled the loose ball and shot it into the top right corner of the net for his second goal of the season.
Trailing by a goal, the Matadors found new life after a diving save by Abalos kept the margin at one in the 78th minute. In the 86th, forward Thomas Ramos blasted a shot from the left side of the goal that ran just wide to the right and Edwin Rivas' attempt in the 90th was pushed wide for a corner kick.
One last attempt at the goal was not to be, as the Matadors could not break through for a goal. Ibarra made three saves on the night to earn his second shutout of the season for SMU.
The Matadors return to action on Sunday, Sept. 25 with a late morning match against Seattle University. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and is part of a Northridge Soccer doubleheader as the women's team will host Portland following the match. Both matches on Sunday will be broadcast online and can be accessed via the "Audio" link on each schedule.
NOTES: The match was delayed for about five minutes in the first half due to visible lightning in the area. After it was determined that the storm was moving away, the match resumed and was completed. Midfielder Gustavo Villalobos, who had one goal and two assists for the Matadors this season, missed the match and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a leg injury sustained in practice. Midfielder James Rochlitz will also miss the remainder of the season after suffering a sports hernia injury.