Matadors Travel for Road Tests at UCR, #7 UCLA This Week

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - 

The Cal State Northridge Matadors have a pair of road matches this week when they travel to UC Riverside for a Big West Conference match on Wednesday, Oct. 19 and to Los Angeles for a non-conference contest at No. 7 UCLA on Saturday, Oct. 22. Both matches are slated to begin at 7:00 p.m. The meeting with Riverside will be the only match between the two this year and marks the start of the second half of the Big West season as each team has five conference games remaining. Both matches will be broadcast online with live stats on GameTracker and the game at UCLA will also feature an Internet-only radio broadcast on UCLABruins.com. A live stats link and radio stream can be accessed by visiting the men's soccer schedule on GoMatadors.com and clicking the links next to this week's matches.

A Closer Look at UC Riverside

The Matadors travel to Riverside this week to take on the Highlanders for the only time in Big West play this season. Northridge holds a decisive edge in the season series with UC Riverside 17-2-6, but the Highlanders took the only meeting last season by a score of 2-1 in overtime at Matador Soccer Field.

The Highlanders come into the week with a record of 6-5-2 overall and a mark of 1-3-1 in conference play. Their most recent match was a 1-1 draw at Cal State Fullerton last Saturday. UC Riverside is led on offense by Cesar Dias Pizarro, who has scored six goals and has two assists for 14 points this season. Aaron Long and Ben Sperber each have two goals in 2011.

So far, the Highlanders have seen their 18 goals scored by 11 different players and 16 assists by 13 individuals. Cody Suppe has played the majority of minutes in goal for UC Riverside this season and has compiled a record of 6-3-2 with three shutouts. He has made 53 saves in net and has a 1.34 goals against average in 12 matches this year. Following the match with Northridge, the Highlanders will travel to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

A Closer Look at #7 UCLA

The Bruins enter the week undefeated in Pac-12 competition at 5-0 and are 10-3-1 overall this season. UCLA has won its last five matches on the pitch, including most recently over then-No. 24 San Diego State at Drake Stadium on Oct. 16. The last loss suffered by the Bruins came at home against SMU 2-1 on Sept. 25, two days after the Mustangs edged the Matadors 1-0 at Matador Soccer Field. 

The Bruins lead the all-time series between the two sides 13-1-3, with the only Northridge victory coming in Northridge in 2007. The two sides then played to a 2-2 draw in 2008 in Los Angeles. UCLA has outscored opponents 25-15 this year, with nearly half of its goals scored by Chandler Hoffman. Hoffman has scored 11 times and has two assists to lead the team with 24 points, and Kelyn Rowe adds five goals and six assists for 16 points.

Eight players have goals this season, while 13 have combined for 36 assists, lead by Rowe and Victor Munoz with six each. Brian Rowe has played in 12 of the team's 14 matches so far, earning a record of 9-2-1 with four shutouts. He has stopped 40 shots and has a goals against average of 0.97 for the Bruins in his final season with the team. Following the match with the Matadors, the Bruins will host Washington on Oct. 28.

Results from Last Week

The Matadors returned home from their conference road trip for a Saturday evening match against the UC Davis Aggies on Oct. 15. Looking to build on the success they found against Cal Poly on Oct. 11, the Matadors came out aggressively, taking 20 shots compared to just seven for UC Davis. The final line, however, fell in the Aggies favor as the visitors came away with a 2-1 overtime victory to claim three points in the standings. The loss for Northridge created a three-way tie for second place in the Big West between CSUN, UC Davis and Cal Poly. All three have racked up nine points, while UC Irvine leads the pack with 12 points.

The Matadors and Aggies played to a scoreless draw at halftime as it appeared as though each team was looking to find momentum in the match. Northridge had seven shots in the first 45 minutes but just one on goal, while the Aggies managed just three shot attempts in that period. It was UC Davis, however, that found the net first in the match in the 72nd minute to take the lead.

Following a turnover by the Matadors near midfield, Alex Aguiar passed the ball to Dan Reese, who found Matt Sheldon at the top of the box. Sheldon was able to lift a shot over Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos into the top right corner of the net for his first goal of the season. The lead did not hold for long as the Matadors were able to even the score just seven minutes later.

Northridge played a short corner kick on the right side and Yarden Azulay crossed the ball into the box. Chris Smith got a flick on the ball as it dropped to the feet of Edwin Rivas, who knocked it into the goal for his fourth score of the year. Both sides locked each other down on defense the rest of the way and the match headed to overtime.

Just three minutes into overtime, Sheldon found the game winner for UC Davis as he stole the ball in the box from a Matador defender and slotted it home for the golden goal.

No Time to Waste

Sophomore forward Thomas Ramos is tied for the team lead in scoring with 10 points through 13 matches. In 2011, Ramos has scored four goals and has recorded two assists to pace the Matadors after a freshman campaign with zero points. Two of Ramos' four goals this year have come in the first ten minutes of the match, in the fourth minute at UC Davis and the seventh minute at Cal Poly, both Northridge victories. He also scored with under 10 minutes remaining against Seattle (3-0 win) and with one minute left in the first half at No. 22 CSU Bakersfield (2-2 tie). In all, the Matadors are 3-0-1 this season when Ramos records at least one point.

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 seven. 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 (0.64) and is tied for eighth and fifth 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. NCAA stats are current as of Oct. 17. 

On Point

Midfielder/defender Chris Smith has recorded 10 points in 13 matches so far in 2011, good for a tie for first on the team in scoring. The Palmdale, Calif. native is averaging 0.77 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 and had an assist on Edwin Rivas' goal against UC Davis on Oct. 15. Smith currently ranks tied for second in the Big West in assists (6) and is second in assists per game (0.46) and ranks in a tie for 29th in the nation in assists per game and 24th in total assists.

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 is second on the team with 28 shots taken and first with 13 shots on goal in 12 matches. He has scored four goals so far for Northridge in his first campaign, tied for the team lead, and is averaging 0.75 points per game.

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 15 career victories, is eighth all-time with his 1.44 career goals against average, and is third all-time with his 12 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 46 matches in goal place him in a tie for third in the all-time list for career matches with Radames Lafaurie (2001-04).

Matadors In The Big West Top-Ten

With the Big West Conference season nearing the halfway point, a number of Matadors rank among their peers in the conference statistics, both offensively and defensively. Forwards Thomas Ramos and Edwin Rivas rank tied for ninth in the league with four goals and Ramos and Chris Smith are tied for ninth with 10 points. Smith and Ramos also rank tied for ninth with 0.77 points per game. Midfielder Carlos Benavides leads the league in assists (7) and assists per game (0.64). In net, goalkeeper Michael Abalos is third with a .770 save percentage, fourth with 47 saves and is third with a 3.92 saves per game average. He is also tied for second with five shutouts on the season. Statistics are accurate as of Oct. 17.

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.

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.

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.

Scoring from All Positions

So far in 2011, the Matadors have seen 22 goals scored by 10 different players. Christian Gonzalez Diaz, Yarden Azulay, Edwin Rivas, Chris Smith, Gustavo Villalobos, Taylor Bowlin, Thomas Ramos, Brian Behrad, Luis Gutierrez and Rafael Garcia have all found the back of the net for Northridge this season. Equally as impressive is that the Matadors have a total of 27 assists on those goals, with Smith (6), Villalobos (2), Ramos (2), Azulay (2) and Gonzalez Diaz (1) as the only Matadors to have a goal and a helper thus far. Midfielder Rene Anguiano (3), defenders Nicholas Hamilton (2), Joe Franco (1), Yuval Barak (1) and sophomore Carlos Benavides (7) have each been credited with an assist. In all, the Matadors have tallied 71 points and have seen offensive production from all parts of the pitch, working the attack through a variety of positions to break down the opposition. The 71 points are third-most in the Big West.

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 84 games played on-campus, CSUN possesses an overwhelming 53-23-8 record at home for a .679 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.

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 currently in the NCAA RPI, the Matadors will have faced a total of six squads in the top 25 by the end of the season. Northridge played host to No. 6 Akron on Sept. 3 and traveled to No. 9 New Mexico on Sept. 11. They hosted No. 11 SMU on Sept. 23, and will face No. 4 UC Irvine again on Oct. 26, followed by No. 14 UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1. The Matadors will also travel to cross-town rival  No. 18 UCLA on Oct. 22. RPI rankings are current as of Oct. 18.

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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