A Long Way from Home, Three Matadors Find Success at CSUN

By Monique Muñiz
Media Relations Intern

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

Imagine being 7,500 miles from your family, culture and home city, you probably think you couldn't manage ever day life in a new country. For the Cal State Northridge men's soccer team, three members have made an immediate impact from their travels.

Northridge soccer is home to three Israelis: associate head coach Yossi Raz and players Yarden Azulay and Yuval Barak.

"I met Yarden the first time this summer at CSUN," Barak said. "I had only spoken to coach Raz over the phone."

Their move from Israel to America hasn't been a big obstacle and their life on campus is going smoothly.

"I came from a small village in Israel so things here are much bigger," Azulay said. "The community here in Northridge is small so there are many similarities from where I came from. I have four amazing roommates and with Yuval here I think that made it easier on me."

Barak added, "When I first arrived here I was in a house with several teammates and they made it pretty easy on me to fit in. I also came in during the spring semester. I think that helped out, too."

Coach Raz made his debut for the Matadors 10 years ago and was a star player for the Matadors. He became the first player to earn Big West First Team honors all four seasons. During that time, he totaled 22 goals, 28 assists and 72 points for CSUN.

This season, he has the privilege of coaching two young men from his homeland.

"There was an immediate connection with them coming from Israel, but the idea is to show how great they are in their own right," Raz said. "They have proven themselves every day. They deserve to play for Cal State Northridge."   

Barak is in his second season with the Matadors. After he redshirted last season because of a knee injury, he has started all 11 games this season for CSUN. He also had an assist in CSUN's 3-0 win against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1. His presence on the defensive end is apparent as well, as Northridge has not allowed a goal in three of the last four games.

"I am trying to prove I belong here and can play," Barak said. "As a team we want to win every game and do the best we can."

Azulay, a freshmen midfielder, has sparked the CSUN offense with three goals, one assist and seven points. He scored what proved to be the winning goal against Cal State Fullerton and his first collegiate goal came on a breakaway against the defending national champion Akron on Sept. 3. 

Both players are making a significant impact on the field and Coach Raz has helped both men adjust to a quicker American game. Once on the field there is no loss in translation on what is the main priority.

"I have four years here," Azulay said. "Maybe we can start a new legacy, something bigger than now. We shall see."

The two Israeli players are on a path for a bright future on-and-off the field, and coach Raz is helping guide them as a role model, particularly in the classroom. Raz obtained his master's degree here at CSUN in Recreation and Tourism.  

Barak and Azulay not only want to fulfill their dream with a bachelor's degree at CSUN, but potentially their master's degree as well.

"Their expectations are high and they are showing their talents on-and-off the field," Raz said. "They are both great students and that is the expectation they knew before they came here. They both continue to be successful and we are happy to have them in the program."

All three have made Northridge their new home and they have gained a new family with their Matador teammates. The language may be a little difficult, but coming from a far away land (Israel) to play the game they love and obtain an education is worth the miles.

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