Matadors Face No. 9 UCI, Cal Poly with Playoffs on the Line

Complete Release in PDF Format


With four matches remaining in the regular season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors return home for two cruicial Big West matches that carry playoff implications. First, the Matadors host league-leading UC Irvine on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. Then, Northridge will host Cal Poly on Saturday, Oct. 29, also at 7 p.m. Both opponents enter the week in the top half of the standings and each match carries significant weight with just one week remaining until the Big West Conference Tournament.

Both matches will be broadcast online with live stats on GameTracker and will include an audio feed via Stretch Internet on Eldrick Bone and Raul Delgado will handle the broadcasting duties for both matches. A live stats link and the radio stream can be accessed by visiting the men's soccer schedule on and clicking the links next to this week's matches. 

A Closer Look at No. 9 UC Irvine

The Matadors host the Anteaters of UC Irvine on Wednesday, Oct. 26 in a rematch of Irvine's 2-0 victory on Oct. 8. An own-goal gave the Anteaters a 1-0 lead in that match and a late score sealed the game to give CSUN its first conference loss of the year. UC Irvine is 13-4-0 overall with a 5-2-0 mark in Big West play and is tied for first in the standings.

Since the last meeting between these two teams, UC Irvine has gone 2-2, defeating UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton and losing to then-No. 4 Creighton and UC Davis. Christian Hernandez and Miguel Ibarra have identical scoring totals for the Anteaters as each has scored six goals and recorded seven assists for 19 points. Hernandez leads the team with 47 shots to Ibarra's 42, but Ibarra has the edge in shots on goal 22-21.

Andrew Fontein has played every minute in goal for the Anteaters this season and has collected six shutouts on the season. He has a goals allowed average of 0.97 and has made 63 saves. Fontein made 11 saves against Northridge to earn a shutout earlier this year. The Anteaters will host UC Riverside on Saturday, Oct. 29 after facing the Matadors this week.

A Closer Look at Cal Poly

The Mustangs enter the week at 6-7-2 overall and 3-4-0 in Big West play. Since the last meeting between these two teams, a 2-0 Northridge win at Cal Poly on Oct. 11, the Mustangs have gone 1-2, losing on the road to Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis after defeating then-No. 13 UC Santa Barbara in front of a record crowd.

The Mustangs are led offensively by Kyle Montgomery, who has three goals and one assist for seven points this season. Montgomery has 28 shots on the season with seven on goal. Dakota Collins has scored twice and also has an assist for five points. He has one game-winning score this season with eight shots on goal. Mac Pridham, Ian Clark, and Patrick Sigler each have two goals and four points. 

The Mustangs have scored 15 goals through 15 matches this season and have only conceded 14. They have played in 10 matches decided by one goal and are 5-5 in those contests. Goalkeeper Patrick McLain has played in 14 matches in 2011 and has compiled a record in net of 5-7-2 with five shutouts. He has 33 saves, a .717 save percentage, and a goals allowed average of 0.92. The match against the Matadors on Saturday will be the only game for Cal Poly this week.

Results from Last Week

The Matadors split a pair of road matches last week against two UC schools. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Northridge took on Big West foe UC Riverside for the only match between the two this season. The Matadors dropped the match 2-1 behind a pair of late goals for the Highlanders and fell to 3-3 in conference play. Then, on Saturday, Oct. 22, Northridge traveled to Westwood for a non-conference showdown with the No. 7 UCLA Bruins. Feuled by instant offense off of substitutions, the Matadors completed a historic comeback to take the match 3-2 with two goals in the final eight minutes of play.

On Wednesday at Riverside, the two clubs played a scoreless match for 85 minutes before Thomas Ramos found the back of the net in the 86th. Christian Gonzalez Diaz crossed the ball to Ramos in the box and the forward headed it home for his fifth goal of the season. The lead was short-lived, however, as UC Riverside scored twice in the final three minutes to win. Goals by Hayden Leslie (88th minute) and Ivan Garcia (90th minute) erased the Matadors' victory bid.

Against UCLA, the Matadors fought for the lead and saw a goal by Gonzalez Diaz in the 34th minute, moments after he came on as a substitute. Ramos dribbled the ball through the middle of the defense and found Gonzalez Diaz on the right side of the box. The freshman lifted a shot into the top right corner of the net for the match's first goal.

After two goals by the Bruins before halftime, Northridge trailed UCLA 2-1. Playing from behind for much of the second half, the Matadors found themselves fighting for possession as the Bruins tried to run out the clock. The Matadors were able to break through after Jose Luis Garcia entered the match for the first time in the 80th minute. Garcia found Joe Franco on the right side of the pitch, who crossed it to Brian Behrad in the box. Behrad's volley into the left side of the net tied the match at two goals apiece.

Then, in the 87th minute, Garcia took a corner kick that was cleared back out to him on the left side. His follow-up cross found Edwin Rivas in the box, who dribbled to his left and slotted the ball into the near post for the game winner.

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 five goals so far this season, which put him in a tie for the team lead in that category and in a tie for second on the squad with 10 points. Rivas had arguably his most satisfying performance at No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 22, scoring the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to cap a comeback for the Matadors, who won on the road against the Bruins for the first time in school history.

No Time to Waste

Sophomore forward Thomas Ramos is leading the in scoring with 13 points through 15 matches. In 2011, Ramos has scored five goals and has recorded three assists to pace the Matadors after a freshman campaign with zero points. Two of Ramos' five 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). He scored with just over four minutes to go at UC Riverside (10/19) on an assist by Christian Gonzalez Diaz and assisted on Gonzalez Diaz' score at UCLA on Oct. 22. 

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 (0.54) and is tied for 13th and 11th 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. 23.

On Point

Midfielder/defender Chris Smith has recorded 10 points in 15 matches so far in 2011, good for a tie for second on the team in scoring. The Palmdale, Calif. native is averaging 0.67 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 fourth in the Big West in assists (6) and assists per game (0.40).

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 16 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 and so far in 2011 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 48 matches in goal place him third on the all-time list.

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.

Matadors In The Big West Top-Ten

With two weeks to go in the Big West Conference season, 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 eighth in the league with five goals and Ramos is tied for seventh with 13 points. Chris Smith and Rivas are tied for 10th with 10 points. Midfielder Carlos Benavides leads the league in assists (7) and assists per game (0.54) and senior co-captain Rafael Garcia is tied for fourth with 3.00 shots taken per game. In net, goalkeeper Michael Abalos is fifth with a .727 save percentage, 48 saves and a 3.43 saves per game average. He is also tied for second in the league with five shutouts on the season. Statistics are accurate as of Oct. 24. 

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. On Oct. 22 at No. 7 UCLA, the Matadors trailed 2-1 before goals by Brian Behrad (83') and Edwin Rivas (87') led Northridge to its first victory over the Bruins in Westwood and just the second win over UCLA in school history.

The New-Look Matadors

The Cal State Northridge Matadors 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 also had the game-winning score at No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 22 to give the Matadors a 3-2 come-from-behind victory, 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.

Scoring from All Positions

So far in 2011, the Matadors have seen 26 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 32 assists on those goals, with Smith (6), Villalobos (2), Ramos (3), Azulay (2) and Gonzalez Diaz (2) as the only Matadors to have a goal and a helper thus far. Midfielder Rene Anguiano (3), defenders Nicholas Hamilton (2), Joe Franco (2), Yuval Barak (1), Carlos Benavides (7), and Jose Luis Garcia (2) have each been credited with an assist. In all, the Matadors have tallied 84 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 84 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.

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.