Matadors Look To Clinch Big West South Division at UC Riverside
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The final road match of the regular season is ahead for the Cal State Northridge Matadors as the team travels to UC Riverside this week. The Matadors and Highlanders will play a rematch this Saturday night of a match that CSUN won in double overtime at Matador Soccer Field on October 13. In that contest, Rene Anguiano's strike from outside of the box sent the Northridge fans home happy in the 104th minute. Now, the Matadors and Highlanders do battle with a lot at stake for both sides. The Matadors need two points, either from a win or draw or a Cal State Fullerton loss or draw against UC Irvine, to clinch the Big West South Division regular season title and host a Big West Tournament semifinal on November 7. The Highlanders currently trail Cal State Fullerton by one point for the division's other playoff bid and need a victory to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Northridge's match this week at UC Riverside will feature live stats coverage. A link to the live stats can be accessed from the men's soccer schedule page at GoMatadors.com. Following the trip to the Inland Empire, the Matadors will return home for their final two regular-season matches against Cal State Fullerton (10/31) and UC Irvine (11/3).
Matadors (11-5-0, 5-2-0 Big West) at UC Riverside Highlanders (9-6-0, 2-5-0 Big West)
Saturday, Oct. 27 - 7 p.m.
UC Riverside Soccer Stadium (1,156) - Riverside, Calif.
Live Stats: Click Here to Access Live Stats
In-game Twitter updates: @GoMatadors
Follow Your Matadors Online
All home matches this season will include live stats coverage and selected matches will also feature a free audio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. For road contests, related links to the game, inlcuding for any live stats, audio and video, will be posted before the match on the schedule page of GoMatadors.com. Fans are also encouraged to check the Cal State Northridge Athetics Department's official Twitter feed (@GoMatadors) for updates of matches in progress and news and notes throughout the week.
Gearing Up for the Postseason
With a 2-1 win at UC Irvine on October 20, the Matadors punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2009. Cal State Northridge is assured at least second place in the Big West South Division and can clinch the division title with one more point over its final three matches. The Big West Tournament gets underway at campus sites on Wednesday, Nov. 7. If the Matadors emerge as the South Champions, they will host a Big West Semifinal match that night. If Northridge finishes second in the division, the team will travel to the school that wins the North Division. For the Matadors to host the Big West Tournament Final, the squad would need to win the South Division title and the Big West Semifinal and have the South's second-place team win on the road. The Matadors are also looking to finish the season strong to build up their resume for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. The NCAA selection show will be live streamed at NCAA.com on Monday, Nov. 12 at 2:30 p.m. PT. Full postseason coverage, including links for Big West and NCAA Tournament broadcasts, will be posted when they become available at GoMatadors.com.
A Closer Look at UC Riverside
The Matadors will take on the UC Riverside Highlanders in their only match this week. The Highlanders enter the week with a 9-6 record and are currently third in the Big West South Division with a 2-5 mark and six points. Since the last time these two teams played each other UC Riverside has split a pair of matches, winning against UC Irvine before falling at home to Cal State Fullerton in double overtime on October 20.
Jimmy Martinez and Aaron Long lead the Highlanders with five goals on the season and Martinez is the leader in points with 12. Otis Earle has two goals and six assists to round out the trio of UC Riverside players with double-digit points. So far this season, 12 different Highlanders have scored a goal and 15 players have recorded at least one point.
Ashkan Khosravi owns a 9-6 record in net for the Highlanders and has four shutouts to his credit. He has started every match for UCR and has a 1.21 goals against average with 55 saves and a .753 save percentage.
The last time CSUN played at UCR Soccer Stadium, the match ended in heartbreak for the Matadors. Northridge scored a goal in the 86th minute to take a 1-0 lead by the Highlanders responded with a pair of goals in the final 2:52 of play to come away with the win. The result ended up being costly for Northridge as the Matadors finished the season fifth in the Big West, missing out on a postseason berth by one point in the standings.
Results from Last Week
It was an up-and-down week for the Matadors during their road trip to Orange County to play Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. After holding a 4-1 lead against Fullerton shortly after halftime on Wednesday, the Matadors were unable to hold off a late Titan charge, allowing four goals in a span of 17 minutes. Following the defeat at Titan Stadium, Northridge rebounded for a 2-1 win at UC Irvine on Saturday night to clinch a Big West Tournament berth for the first time since 2009 and only the second time in tournament history.
Forward Brian Behrad led the Matadors on Wednesday with two goals, scoring with less than a minute remaining in the first half and again less than a minute into the second half. Beto Velasquez and Sagi Lev-Ari combined for the other two goals on the night but it was not enough to get past the Titans. Ian Ramos recorded a hat trick for Cal State Fullerton, putting home a penalty kick in the 71st minute that ended up being the game-winning goal.
Northridge rebounded on Saturday in a road match against the Anteaters in Irvine. After holding a halftime lead, the Matadors allowed another penalty kick that evened the score in the 60th minute but it was Armando Gutierrez's shot that was the decider with 10 minutes to play.
Lev-Ari got the scoring started for the Matadors in the 10th minute of action. Yarden Azulay dribbled up the left side of the field and sent in a cross that was headed home by Lev-Ari for his 12th goal of the season. However, a foul called on Northridge inside the penalty area resulted in a penalty kick goal for Irvine's Tarek Morad later in the match.
Searching for the game-winning goal late in the match, the Matadors won a free kick on the left side from about 35 yards from goal. Chris Smith sent a cross to the far post that was headed down by Trevor Morley. Gutierrez was there to shoot in the loose ball into an open net to send CSUN home with three points and their first Big West Tournament bid since 2009. Morley was credited with his first career assist on the play.
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. The San Juan Capistrano, Calif. native earned a spot on four different lists with his numbers earned during his first three-plus seasons at Northridge. Abalos is now in fourth place with his 26 career victories, is sixth all-time with his 1.23 career goals against average and is second all-time with his 19 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 67 matches in goal are second on the all-time list. This season, Abalos has an 10-4 record with five shutouts and a 1.05 goals against average.
Redshirt sophomore Edwin Rivas is picking up right where he left off at the end of last season. Heading into the final stretch, Rivas has six goals, an assist and 13 points. Rivas scored a goal and had an assist in Northridge's 4-0 win over Portland and scored the tying goal against American University in a 2-1 win. For his work over the first weekend, he was named the 2012 Wilson Titan Classic Offensive MVP and earned Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors as well. He scored the game-winning goal over Temple in a 2-1 win on September 16 and added an insurance goal against UC Davis on September 28 in a 2-0 win. For his career, Rivas now has 11 goals, one assist and 23 points.
Everybody Needs a Little Lev-Ari
Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari made a statement in his first match in a Northridge uniform. In the Matadors' 4-0 victory over the Portland Pilots on August 24, Lev-Ari scored the first and last goals of the match to secure his first four points of the season. He became the first Matador with a multiple-goal match since Rafael Garcia put in two penalty kicks at UC Davis on September 28, 2011. On September 2 at Loyola University Maryland, Lev-Ari scored his third goal of the campaign off of a free kick. Jose Luis Garcia touched a short ball to Lev-Ari who fired in a lined shot from about 22 yards out. Lev-Ari also scored two goals in wins over Army and San Diego and scored 21 seconds in to help CSUN defeat Cal Poly on the road on October 5.. Lev-Ari currently leads the Big West and is tied for sixth in the country with 12 goals scored. He also ties for the conference lead with five game-winning goals.
Junior midfielder Carlos Benavides continues to help the Matadors find ways to score goals. After tying for the Big West Conference lead with eight assists and leading in assists per game (0.47), he is well on his way to taking home the top spot in those categories again this season. At the Wilson Titan Classic hosted by Cal State Fullerton Benavides picked up two assists, one in each of the Matadors' victories over Portland (4-0) and American (2-1). He also notched a pair of assists in CSUN's 5-0 win over Army on September 14. Benavides currently leads the Big West with seven assists and has a 0.44 assists per game average through 16 matches.
Junior midfielder Beto Velasquez is a main cog of the Northridge offense and is tied for second on the team with six goals and 13 points. After transferring to CSUN from Virginia Tech the Panorama City, Calif., native has helped Northridge to key victories in the team's quest to get back to the postseason. He scored the game-winning goal against American (8/26) as Northridge won the Wilson Titan Classic and also had the lone goal in CSUN's win at then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara (10/7).
One Plus One is Three Or Four
Sophomore forward Edwin Rivas was the first Matador to put up a goal and an assist in the same match this season when he accomplished the feat against Portland on August 24. Sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari had two goals of his own in that match to record four points as each put up performances that are hard to come by. Lev-Ari followed up his display with another two-goal outing in a 5-0 win over Army (9/14) in Northridge's home opener and a pair of goals at San Diego (9/20). The forward scored the eventual game-winning goal in the sixth minute and added another in the 55th against Army and scored twice in the opening 10:27 against the Toreros to lead the Matadors to their largest margins of victory since a 6-1 win over Detroit on Aug. 31, 2007.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
As the regular season enters its final stretch, a number of Matadors are solidifying their place in the individual rankings for the Big West Conference. Edwin Rivas leads the conference in shots taken (60). He ranks among the leaders in points (T-6th - 15), points per game (T-4th - 1.00), goals (T-6th - 6) and goals per game (7th - 0.40). He also leads the league with 4.00 shots per game. Sagi Lev-Ari ranks first with 1.50 points per game and is third in the Big West with 52 shots taken. Lev-Ari is the league leader in points (24), goals (12) and goals per game (0.75). Beto Velasquez checks in tied for ninth in the conference with 31 shots. He ties for sixthe with 15 points and is tied for fourth with seven goals. Carlos Benavides leads the Big West with seven assists and is first with 0.44 assists per game while Yuval Barak and Chris Smith are tied for fourth with five assists. David Turcios checks in tied for eighth with four helpers. Goalkeeper Michael Abalos ranks fifth in the conference in goals against average (1.05), seventh in save percentage (.724) and eighth in saves per game (2.80). He ties for the league lead with 0.33 shutouts per game and five shutouts. His 42 saves are sixth among all Big West goalkeepers.
The Cal State Northridge Matadors have seen production out of every position on the field this season. In the team's matches to this point, 10 different players have scored a goal and 16 total Matadors have recorded at least one point. The team has put up 103 points thus far to lead the Big West Conference in that category. Each of the four goals against the Portland Pilots in the season-opening 4-0 win had an assist by a different player. Among the point scorers for Northridge are six forwards, five midfielders and five defenders led by forward Sagi Lev-Ari with 24. Edwin Rivas (15), Beto Velasquez (15), Jose Luis Garcia (4), Brian Behrad (7), Joe Franco (3), David Turcios (6), Chris Smith (7), Rene Anguiano (3), and Armando Gutierrez (2) have scored goals while Carlos Benavides (7), Yuval Barak (5), Carlos Gonzalez (1), Christian Gonzalez Diaz (2), Trevor Morley (1) and Yarden Azulay (1) have earned assists. Lev-Ari has scored a goal in nine matches this year and leads the team with 12 goals.
The Matadors are back in the national rankings for the first time since the 2009 season. After going 1-1 last week, Northridge is currently ranked 23rd by Soccer America, 29th by College Soccer News and 36th by Top Drawer Soccer. The Matadors are also receiving votes in polls by Soccer Times and the NSCAA, the official poll recognized by the NCAA. In the NSCAA's regional rankings, the Matadors are currently fourth in the Far West, the highest of any Big West team this week. CSUN is also ranked 34th in the RPI.
Redefining the "Matador Defense"
The Matadors are changing what it means to be guilty of playing a "Matador Defense." So far this season, Northridge has recorded seven shutouts after earning a total of eight in 2011. The Matadors have won eight of their last 10 matches, five of which have been shutouts. The Northridge defense has allowed just 16 goals this season and ranks 58th in the nation with a combined 0.98 goals against average.
You Can't Score if You Don't Shoot
With three games remaining in the regular season, the Matadors lead the Big West Conference in shots taken (275), goals scored (34), points (103), and goals per game (2.12). Over Northridge's two matches against Army and Temple, the team took a combined 49 shots and scored seven goals. Their opposition took just 15 shots and scored once. The next match, Northridge erupted for five more goals at San Diego (9/20). Every Matador that has played in the field this season has recorded a shot and just under 40 percent of the shots taken have been on goal. At the same time, opponents have recorded 178 total shots and 60 shots on goal, scoring 16 times.
Getting the Job Done
With two weeks of action remaining in the regular season, the Matadors are looking to build on exciting finishes they have put up thus far. Following a 4-0 result against Portland, Northridge found itself down a goal early in the second half against American. It was then that the Matadors rattled off two goals in a span of three minutes to take the lead for good and pick up their second win of the year. Northridge has also been impressive offensively in a pair of 5-0 victories at home against Army (9/14) and at San Diego (9/20). Prior to this season, the Matadors hadn't scored five goals in a match and hadn't won by a five-goal margin since winning 6-1 over Detroit in the team's home opener on August 31, 2007. On October 7, the Matadors went in to Santa Barbara and came away with a 1-0 win over then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara. It was the first win for CSUN at Harder Stadium since the 1999 season. On October 13, Northridge was able to score a golden goal in the 104th minute against UC Riverside to record the program's first home overtime win since 2009.
Of the 19 matches on the schedule this year, the Cal State Northridge Matadors will play just eight at Matador Soccer Field, including three non-conference matches in September. That may bode well for the Matadors, as the team had a record of 5-3-1 in road contests last season. This year, Northridge is 4-4-0 in road matches and 2-0-0 in neutral-site contests. The team won the Wilson Titan Classic at Cal State Fullerton to open the season and also won both road matches in the same year at Cal Poly and No. 4 UC Santa Barbara for the first time since joining the Big West. The Matadors have been solid at home, winning four matches and outscoring opponents 11-2 at Matador Soccer Field. Two of Northridge's final three matches of the regular season will be at home, with the lone road contest at UC Riverside this week. If CSUN wins the Big West South Division, the Matadors would host a Big West Semifinal on November 7.
Tickets for all home men's matches are available through the CSUN Associated Students Ticket Office. Adults are $8, while youth 17 and under and seniors 60 and older are $5. 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.