October 29, 2011

Matadors Tie Cal Poly in Defensive Battle

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

For the second straight match there was not a goal scored as the Cal State Northridge Matadors (7-7-3, 3-3-2 Big West) played the Cal Poly Mustangs (6-7-3, 3-4-1 Big West) to a draw on Saturday night at Matador Soccer Field. The Matadors earned one point in the conference standings and are now fifth with two matches to play.

After a scoreless tie on Wednesday night against No. 9 UC Irvine, the Matadors came out hungry for a goal against the Mustangs as each side needs points to claim a berth in the Big West Conference tournament. The Northridge defense was able to disrupt the rhythm of Cal Poly with aggressive play and, as such, picked up the first eight fouls of the match. 

The first chance at goal in the match came for the Mustangs in the ninth minute as Cal Poly leading scorer Kyle Montgomery lined up a free kick attempt from 20 yards out. He got just under the shot, however, and the ball sailed high over the goal.

The Matadors had a run of their own at net in the 16th minute when co-captain Joe Franco received a long ball up the right side of the pitch and crossed it into the box. Midfielder Chris Smith was on the other end of the field unmarked and tried a volley at the net but his shot missed wide left.

Another free kick for Cal Poly, this time taken by George Malki from 28 yards out, also missed well high of the target. Northridge recorded the first shot on goal of the match in the 41st minute when Yarden Azulay turned with the ball toward his left and ripped off a low shot that Mustang goalkeeper Patrick McLain was able to save.

At the end of the first half, Northridge led in shots 5-4 but also committed more fouls (10-5). Cal Poly made two saves while goalkeeper Michael Abalos for Northridge did not see an attempt on goal at his end.

The second half produced much of the same as the first as Cal Poly earned free kicks near the box but failed to convert. The Matadors took a more aggressive approach to the offense and subsequently got waived for offsides as they were called six times in the match to Cal Poly's zero.

Neither team had promising chances at the goal in the second half as both the Northridge and Cal Poly defenders highlighted a period full of well-timed tackles and ball movement. As a result, the match remained scoreless going into overtime.

In the first overtime period, the Matadors nearly ended the match on an Alberto Rosas shot in the 99th minute. After a steal in the midfield for Northridge, Rosas found himself with the ball alone against McLain. Rather than try to shoot around McLain, who was closing out on him, Rosas opted to chip it over the goalkeeper but his floater struck the crossbar and stayed out.

Thomas Ramos had a chance for the winner in the second overtime but his shot was saved by McLain without much danger and the match ended in a draw. It was the third draw this season and second consecutive match with a tie for the Matadors.

For Northridge, Abalos has now gone 266 minutes without conceding a goal as the last opponent to score against the Matadors was UCLA in the 44th minute on Oct. 22. Abalos made three saves to earn his seventh shutout of the year and 14th of his career. His single-season mark is good for a tie for third all-time in one season at Northridge and his 14 clean sheets are third-most for a career.

The Matadors return to action on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. when they host the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Matador Soccer Field. The Matadors trail the Gauchos by one point for fourth place in the standings with two matches to play. The match will also be Senior Night at the pitch, with a pregame ceremony honoring the senior players scheduled for before kickoff.