Matadors Face Road Tests at No. 7 UC Irvine, Cal Poly This Week

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors look to continue on their recent success when they travel to No. 7 UC Irvine and Cal Poly for Big West Conference matches this week. The Matadors first head south to take on the Anteaters for a night match at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8. From there, Northridge will travel to San Luis Obispo for a date with the Mustangs of Cal Poly on Tuesday, Oct. 11, also at 7 p.m. Both matches will be broadcast online with live stats, which can be accessed by clicking on the "Live Stats" link in the men's soccer schedule at GoMatadors.com. For full stats and recaps from this week's action, follow the Matadors online at GoMatadors.com.

A Closer Look at No. 7 UC Irvine

The Matadors will travel to Orange County this week to take on the No. 7 UC Irvine Anteaters on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Anteaters will look to avenge a loss to Northridge in their final meeting last year as a 90th minute goal by the Matadors shocked the Anteaters in Irvine on Nov. 3, 2010.

The Anteaters open the week with a record of 9-2-0 and a mark of 1-1-0 in the Big West Conference. They defeated No. 7 UC Santa Barbara 2-0 on Oct. 1 after losing their conference opener on Sept. 28 to Cal Poly 1-0 in Irvine.

Christian Hernandez leads UC Irvine in scoring with 14 points (five goals, four assists) and has netted three game-winning goals in 2011. Enrique Cardenas also has five goals and leads the team in shots (36) and shots on goal (18). Neither figured into the scoring in the win at UC Santa Barbara as Miguel Ibarra and Lester Hayes III netted scores for UCI. 

Andrew Fontein has been the lone goalkeeper for UC Irvine this season, logging every minute of the season in the net. Fontein has allowed 10 goals in 11 matches for a goals against average of 0.88. He has made 27 saves and has also recorded four shutouts on the year. Fontein is third in the conference in goals against average and sixth in saves.

The Anteaters will face Cal State Fullerton on the road Wednesday night before hosting Northridge on Saturday.

A Closer Look at Cal Poly

The Cal Poly Mustangs will play host to the Matadors on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in a Big West Conference match at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The Mustangs host UC Davis on Wednesday night and UC Riverside on Sunday before Northridge enters for a showdown between two of the top teams in the conference.

The Mustangs sit at 4-3-2 overall but are 1-0-0 in Big West play after stunning No. 7 UC Irvine on the road in their only match last week. With three points in the standings, Cal Poly looks to build on its win after losing its previous two matches to Denver and Akron.

Dakota Collins leads Cal Poly in scoring with two goals on the season for four points and is the only Mustang with more than one goal in 2011. Benny Estes is the only member of the team with a goal and assist and Patrick Sigler's game-winning penalty kick at UC Irvine put him in a tie for third in scoring with two points.

Although Patrick McLain has seen the most action in net for Cal Poly this year, it was freshman Chase Hauser that got the start and subsequent shutout at UC Irvine last week. Hauser made eight saves to keep the clean sheet and the Mustangs played the final 33 minutes down a man. For his efforts, Hauser was named Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week last week. 

Results from Last Week

The Matadors stormed into the Big West Conference portion of the schedule with a pair of matches against league foes last week. Northridge opened conference play at UC Davis on Sept. 28 before returning home to face No. 19 Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1.

In an afternoon match on Wednesday, Sept. 28 against UC Davis, the Matadors wasted little time in scoring as Thomas Ramos got things started for Northridge in the fourth minute of action. Ramos received a cross from Rene Anguiano in the box and scored from six yards out for his third tally of the season.

Ramos set up a pair of goals later in the match as well as he was tripped twice in the box in the second half to win penalty kicks for the Matadors. Senior Rafael Garcia stepped to the spot both times and put in his first two goals of the year. Northridge came away with a 3-0 win and its first victory over UC Davis since 2005.

Against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, the Matadors were able to keep up their agressive style of play and again came away with a 3-0 victory. Three different freshmen had goals for Northridge as Yarden Azulay (35'), Christian Gonzalez Diaz (40') and Edwin Rivas (81') scored to lead the Matadors to a win over the 19th-ranked Titans. Carlos Benavides recorded three assists in the match and was named the Big West Offensive Player of the Week and Gonzalez Diaz, Chris Smith and Yuval Barak had assists as well. Goalkeeper Michael Abalos earned two shutouts to give himself 11 for his career, good for third place all-time at Cal State Northridge.

Mr. Assist

Sophomore midfielder Carlos Benavides has been a major part of the Northridge offense this season and is the team leader in assists with six. Benavides recorded an assist on the only Northridge goal at New Mexico (9/11) and also earned assists at CSU Bakersfield (9/15) and against Seattle University (9/25). He put on his most impressive display, however, against Cal State Fullerton when he tallied three assists in a 3-0 victory, earning Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors in the process. On the season, Benavides leads the conference in assists and assists per game (0.75) and is tied for second and eighth in the nation in those categories, respectively. With three assists against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1, Benavides can also claim the second most assists in a game this season in the NCAA.

On Point

Midfielder/defender Chris Smith has recorded nine points in 10 matches so far in 2011, good for the team lead in scoring. The Palmdale, Calif. native is averaging 0.90 points per game and is a force in both the offensive and defensive schemes for the Matadors, and also serves as the taker of corner kicks when he is on the pitch. Smith scored Northridge's first goal of the season in the opener against Canisius when he lined up a shot from 30 yards out that curled over the goalkeeper's head and gave CSUN a 1-0 lead. He earned an assist on the only goal in CSUN's 2-1 loss to UNLV and also recorded two helpers in Northridge's 3-0 defeat of Missouri State in the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. He also headed home the Matadors' second goal in the 3-0 victory over Seattle. Smith currently ranks second in the Big West in assists (5) and assists per game (0.50) and ranks in a tie for 18th in the nation in total assists and tied for 28th in assists per game.

Strike Force

After a productive summer working with the Guatemala U-19 team, redshirt freshman Edwin Rivas is showing fans the reason that head coach Terry Davila recruited him to lead the attack. The forward out of Los Angeles has scored three goals so far this season, which put him in a tie for the team lead in that category and in a tie for fourth on the squad with six points. Rivas leads the team with 24 shots taken and 10 shots on goal through 10 matches.

One and One is Three

A number of Matadors have put up multiple-point performances in a match this season. Sophomore Thomas Ramos had a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw at #22 CSU Bakersfield (9/15) and again in a match against Seattle University (9/25). Against #19 Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1, both Christian Gonzalez Diaz and Carlos Benavides tallied three points, as Gonzalez Diaz scored and had an assist and Benavides recorded three different helpers. Senior captain Rafael Garcia twice converted penalty kicks into goals at UC Davis (9/28) for the only four-point display by a Matador so far this season.

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-plus seasons at Northridge. Abalos now owns eighth place with his 14 career victories, is eighth all-time with his 1.44 career goals against average, and is third all-time with his 11 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. His 43 matches in goal place him fourth in the all-time list for career matches, three behind Radames Lafaurie (2001-04) for third. 

Matadors In The Big West Top-Ten

With the Big West Conference season officially a week old, a number of Matadors are staking their claims in the conference statistics, both offensively and defensively. Forwards Edwin Rivas and Thomas Ramos and midfielder Yarden Azulay rank tied for eighth in the league with three goals each. Midfielder Chris Smith ranks eighth with nine points and 0.9 points per game. Midfielder Carlos Benavides leads the league in assists (6) and assists per game (0.75). In net, goalkeeper Michael Abalos is third with a .783 save percentage, 36 saves and a 4.00 saves per game average, and is also tied for third with four shutouts on the season. Statistics are accurate as of October 3.

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. In the season-opening win over Canisius, freshman Christian Gonzalez Diaz netted an insurance goal late in the match off of a corner kick to ensure the 2-0 victory. Rivas headed home the equalizer in the 79th minute against UNLV (9/1) and Yarden Azulay scored in the 82nd minute to even the score against No. 2 Akron (9/3). Rivas, Gonzalez Diaz and Azulay have multiple goals for Northridge in 2011.

Quick Out of the Gates

The Matadors are 20-7-4 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 Matadors are now 8-1-2 all-time in Big West Conference openers after defeating the UC Davis Aggies 3-0 on Sept. 28. 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.

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

Since joining the Big West in 2001, CSUN has played in 51 overtime games, and have failed to earn a point in only 10 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. Most recently, the Matadors broke a six-match losing streak in OT games by working for a 2-2 draw at CSU Bakersfield after being down 2-0 on Sept. 15.

Down But Not Out

In the Matadors' match against No. 2 Akron on September 3, Northridge played down a man for 66 minutes due to an accumulation of yellow cards by Nicholas Hamilton. In the 25th minute of action, the Zips took advantage of the man advantage and pulled ahead with a 1-0 lead. Not to be put away, the Matadors played a more defensive game, with goalkeeper Michael Abalos recording seven saves between the time of the red card and when freshman Yarden Azulay scored to even the match on a breakaway in the 82nd minute. So far this season, the Matadors have rallied from a goal down to tie the match twice (vs. UNLV and Akron), both times after the 75th minute. Against No. 22 CSU Bakersfield on Sept. 15, the Matadors rallied from being down two goals on the road to force overtime and earn a draw.

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 83 games played on-campus, CSUN possesses an overwhelming 53-22-8 record at home for a .687 winning percentage on their home turf.

Welcome to the Century Club

With the 2-0 victory over Canisius on August 26, head coach Terry Davila became the sixth coach in Big West history to win 100 games as a member of the conference. Even though Davila entered 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 104-71-33 overall record (.579 pct.). With his victory over Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 2, 2010, Davila became just the third head coach to win 50 or more Big West Conference matches.

Nifty at Fifty

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. Davila now has 53 for his career after the 3-0 victory over #19 Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1.

Bring the Noise

Have a drum, cowbell, 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 violators were subject to removal from the site. Please note that noisemakers have been approved for use at men's and women's soccer matches only, and will be confiscated in the Matadome or at any other Northridge athletics venue.

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 played host to No. 2 Akron on Sept. 3 and SMU on Sept. 23, and will face UC Irvine on Oct. 26 and UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1. The Matadors will also travel to cross-town rival UCLA on Oct. 22. 

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. CSUN matched the 2010 high on Oct. 1, 2011 with a 28-shot performance at home against #19 Cal State Fullerton in a 3-0 win.

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.