2011 Men's Soccer Year in Review

Complete Year in Review in PDF Form

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

Another season has come and gone for the Matadors men's soccer team. After a 2010 season that ended with a 3-14-2 record, Northridge was able to turn things around this season as it went 8-8-3 and finished fifth in the Big West Conference at 4-4-2. The Matadors fell a point shy of reaching the postseason in 2011, but had a much-improved offensive attack and defensive scheme. A total of seven players were named to All-Conference teams, tied for the second most in the Big West.

Garcia Highlights Northridge's All-Conference Selections

Senior co-captain Rafael Garcia put the finishing touches on his storied career at Cal State Northridge by being named to the All-Big West First Team in 2011. This season, Garcia tallied two goals and four points for the Matadors. He converted a pair of penalty kicks against UC Davis on Sept. 28 to lead the Matadors to their first victory over the Aggies since 2005. Garcia was twice named to the All-Big West Second Team after both the 2007 and 2010 seasons.

Joining Garcia in earning conference recognition were Thomas Ramos and Nicholas Hamilton, who were named to the All-Big West Second Team. Ramos led all Matadors in scoring after posting five goals and four assists in his sophomore campaign. He scored three points on two occasions, recording a goal and an assist at CSU Bakersfield and at home against Seattle University. Hamilton started all 18 matches he appeared in at center back and helped the squad earn eight shutouts this season. He also recorded two assists on the year and routinely broke up opposing attacks at goal.

In addition to the First and Second Teams, four Northridge players received an Honorable Mention by the league's coaches. Redshirt freshman Edwin Rivas, defender Joe Franco, midfielder Rene Anguiano and goalkeeper Michael Abalos also earned recognition for their efforts in 2011. Rivas tied for the team lead with Ramos by scoring five goals in his first season on the pitch. Franco, a co-captain, played almost every defensive position for Northridge this year and tallied three assists as well. Anguiano played in 18 matches and filled in for an injured Garcia early in the season and also notched three assists. Abalos, the starting goalkeeper for much of the season, earned six victories in net and gathered seven shutouts, tied for third-most in a single season in school history. 

A Look Back at the 2011 Season

Overall, the Matadors had a lot of success on the field this year, finishing with an 8-8-3 record after going 3-14-2 a season ago. In addition, Northridge earned a mark of 4-4-2 in Big West Conference play, good for a fifth place finish and just one point from making the playoffs. Along the road, the Matadors were faced with the challenge of having no less than six players start matches who had not played for the program in 2010, let alone playing in the second-toughest conference (by RPI standards) in the country.

Northridge opened its season on Aug. 26 with a 2-0 victory over Canisius in a non-conference match, giving head coach Terry Davila 100 victories as a member of the Big West. A week later, the Matadors hosted the 2011 Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic, welcoming Cal State Fullerton, UNLV and defending national champion Akron to the Valley. Against the Zips, the Matadors fought back from being a goal and a man down to force overtime before falling in double overtime. In its next match, Northridge easily dispensed of Missouri State 3-0 in a neutral-site meeting in New Mexico.

At then-No. 22 CSU Bakersfield, the Matadors found themselves down by a score of 2-0 before two goals tied the match and forced extra time. Thomas Ramos led the attack with a goal and an assist as Northridge earned a draw against the Roadrunners. The best stretch of the season came at the end of the non-conference schedule as the Matadors beat Seattle University 3-0 at home. From there, they defeated UC Davis on the road in the conference opener and then-No. 19 Cal State Fullerton in the home opener, both also by 3-0 margins. The win over UC Davis was the first since 2005 and the Matadors also scored a goal on the Aggies for the first time since 2008.

Arguably the biggest and most satisfying win of the season came at then-No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 22. Freshman Christian Gonzalez Diaz scored in the first half for the Matadors to give them a 1-0 lead, but two Bruin goals before halftime put Northridge in an unfavorable position on the road. Then, with under 10 minutes to play in the match, sophomore Brian Behrad volleyed home the equalizer from inside the box to give CSUN new life. The Matadors completed the comeback after Edwin Rivas went one-on-one with a defender in the box and slotted a left-footed shot into the right side of the goal. The win was the first for Northridge at Drake Stadium in history.

The Matadors also saw a 0-0 result against then-No. 9 UC Irvine and finished out the season with a 2-1 win at Cal State Fullerton.

Results from Final Week of Regular Season

The Matadors faced off against two Big West soccer rivals in the final matches of the regular season, sqauring off against then-No. 16 UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1 and Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 5. Northridge was able to earn a split in the final week to grab three final points and finish fifth in the Big West standings.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Matadors hosted the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in the final home match of 2011. The Guachos took the lead less than 17 minutes into the match, but Northridge managed to tie the score with just over a minute remaining in the first half. Defender Taylor Bowlin attempted a cross into the box, but his pass was deflected by a UCSB defender. The loose ball was recovered by Alberto Rosas, however, who one-touched a curling ball into the top right corner of the net from 18 yards out for his first goal of the season.

In a tied match in the second half, the Matadors were shown a red card in the 55th minute and forced to play a man down for the rest of the night. UC Santa Barbara took advantage of having an extra man and scored a go-ahead goal in the 77th minute. Not to be put away, Northridge was able to answer in the 89th minute of action when Yarden Azulay flicked a header into the goal following passes from Joe Franco and Thomas Ramos to even the score at 2-2 and send the match into overtime.

Northridge would eventually fall to the Gauchos in double overtime though as a CSUN defender tried to clear a rolling ball from going into the net and failed, resulting in an own goal.

Against the Cal State Fullerton Titans, Northridge looked strong from start to finish as they attempted to put the finishing touches on the season and end the year with a .500 record. Forward Brian Behrad scored in the 40th minute of play off of assists from Carlos Benavides and Chris Smith. With the Matadors on the counterattack, Behrad slotted a shot on the ground past the Titan goalkeeper to put CSUN ahead 1-0.

The Matadors doubled the lead in the 71st minute after an odd turn of events that left everyone but Christian Gonzalez Diaz wondering what happened. Rosas had the ball in the box and fired off a shot that appeared to be saved by Cal State Fullerton. Not giving up on the play was Gonzalez Diaz, who saw that the goalkeeper had failed to keep control of the shot and cleaned up the loose ball on the doorstep for his fourth goal of the year. Northridge took the final match of the year 2-1 and earned the season sweep of the Titans.

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 three seasons at Northridge. Abalos now owns eighth place with his 16 career victories, is eighth all-time with his 1.35 career goals against average, and is third all-time with his 14 career shutouts. His seven clean sheets earned in 2011 are also the third-highest number of shutouts earned in a season, tying him with Jeff Blumkin (1988) and Mike Caputo (1986) and their respective single-season performances. His 52 matches in goal place him third on the all-time list.

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 scored five goals this season, which put him in a tie for the team lead in that category and in a tie for third 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 led the Matadors in scoring this season with 14 points through 19 matches. In 2011, Ramos scored five goals and recorded four 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 was a major part of the Northridge offense this season and ended as the team leader in assists with eight. 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 tied for first in the conference in assists and was the leader in assists per game (0.47) and tied for 13th and 15th 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 recorded 11 points in 19 matches in 2011, good for second on the team in scoring. The Palmdale, Calif. native averaged 0.58 points per game and was a force in both the offensive and defensive schemes for the Matadors, also serving as the taker of corner kicks when he was 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 ended the year ranked tied for sixth in the Big West in assists (7) and assists per game (0.37).

One and One is Three

A number of Matadors 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 this season.

Matadors In The Big West Top-Ten

At the conclusion of the Big West Conference season, a number of Matadors ranked among their peers in the conference statistics, both offensively and defensively. Forwards Thomas Ramos and Edwin Rivas ranked tied for eighth in the league with five goals and Ramos was eighth with 14 points. Midfielder Carlos Benavides tied for first in the league in assists (8) and had the highest assists per game average (0.47), while Ramos also finished 10th with 2.47 shots taken per game. Midfielder Chris Smith came in at sixth for both assists (7) and assists per game (0.37). In net, goalkeeper Michael Abalos finished third with a .758 save percentage and 3.83 saves per game. Abalos had the fourth-best goals against average (1.18) and was also fourth with 69 saves. He ended the year tied for second with seven shutouts and was second in the Big West with 0.39 shutouts per game.

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. This season, the Matadors rallied from a goal down to tie the match three times (vs. UNLV, Akron, and UC Santa Barbara), all 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. While playing with 10 men against UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1, Azulay scored the tying goal in the 89th minute to send the match into overtime.

The New-Look Matadors

The Cal State Northridge Matadors saw an influx in new talent this season as 12 players on the squad were new to the program. In addition to four transfer student-athletes, Northridge added eight true freshmen and also saw 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 (5), Gonzalez Diaz (4) and Azulay (4) had 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

In the 2011 regular season, the Matadors saw 30 goals scored by 11 different players: Christian Gonzalez Diaz (4), Yarden Azulay (4), Edwin Rivas (5), Chris Smith (2), Gustavo Villalobos (1), Taylor Bowlin (1), Thomas Ramos (5), Brian Behrad (4), Luis Gutierrez (1), Rafael Garcia (2), and Alberto Rosas (1). Equally as impressive is that the Matadors had a total of 38 assists on those goals, with Smith (7), Villalobos (2), Ramos (4), Azulay (2), Gonzalez Diaz (2), Rosas (1), Bowlin (1) as the only Matadors to have a goal and a helper this year. Midfielder Rene Anguiano (3), defenders Nicholas Hamilton (2), Joe Franco (3), Yuval Barak (1), Carlos Benavides (8), and Jose Luis Garcia (2) have each been credited with an assist. In all, the Matadors have tallied 98 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 98 points were third-most in the Big West in the regular season.

The Friendly Confines

Of the 19 matches on the schedule this year, the Cal State Northridge Matadors played just over half of their contests at Matador Soccer Field. Northridge hosted 10 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 87 games played on-campus, CSUN possesses an overwhelming 53-24-10 record at home for a .667 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.

Strength of Schedule

Known for assembling a tough non-conference schedule, the Cal State Northridge Matadors once again took on a number of teams ranked in national polls throughout the season. As ranked in the final edition of the 2011 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. 21 Akron on Sept. 3 and traveled to No. 6 New Mexico on Sept. 11. They hosted No. 12 SMU on Sept. 23, and faced No. 8 UC Irvine twice. The Matadors also hosted No. 10 UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 1 and traveled to cross-town rival No. 16 UCLA on Oct. 22, defeating the Bruins on the road for the first time in school history RPI rankings are current as of Nov. 8.

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