NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari scored the first Cal State Northridge hat trick in nearly eight years as the Matadors (2-0) knocked off the Memphis Tigers (1-1) by a score of 4-1 to claim the championship of the 2013 Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament. Lev-Ari netted three consecutive goals in the second half, becoming the first Matador since Willie Sims in 2005 to accomplish the feat.
"We have very good center mids and I made my runs," said Lev-Ari. "I got a lot of great passes in from my teammates and took my shots."
Unlike in their match against Albany on Friday night, the Matadors fell behind early thanks to Memphis defender Chandler Gagnon. Gagnon dribbled into the left side of the box and snuck a shot between goalkeeper Adam Hobbs and the post right at the 12-minute mark.
"After falling behind we were playing very wildly in our attacks, very desperate," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila when asked about his halftime adjustments. "Everyone on our team is capable of making a play, but you've got to wait your turn sometimes. Wait until the moment is correct."
Later in the first half, Gagnon got tied up on a play with Northridge winger Beto Velasquez and both were shown the yellow card.
The play would come back to haunt the Tigers, as Gagnon picked up his second yellow and was issued a red card just over one minute into the second half. Northridge capitalized shortly after on the man advantage with Lev-Ari's first goal of the night.
Midfielder Carlos Benavides slotted a pass on the left side to Edwin Rivas to get the play started. Rivas then found Lev-Ari at the right post for a close-range volley to tie the match at a goal apiece.
The Matadors took the lead in the 57th minute thanks to a strong shot off the foot of Lev-Ari in the box. Chris Smith passed the ball to Benavides on the left, who crossed it to Lev-Ari before the forward hit a low shot into the right side of the net.
"The first half we came out really slow. We weren't executing our game plan well," said Smith. "We came out in the second half and just woke up, something clicked, and we were all playing on the same page at that point."
Lev-Ari completed his hat trick in the 72nd minute, but not before another Memphis player was sent off. Just a few minutes prior, Fakhry Khulfan saw a straight red for his role in a challenge on a Northridge defender.
With a two-man advantage, the Matadors continued to open up space and created another chance on goal for Lev-Ari. Yarden Azulay played the ball to Steven Manios, whose through ball was received by Lev-Ari on the run in the box. An easy touch to the goalkeeper's left put CSUN ahead 3-1.
Northridge sealed the victory with a goal by Azulay in just over a minute later. Mynor Giron ran up the left side of the field with the ball and sent a low cross toward the box where it went untouched. Seizing his opportunity, Azulay blasted a shot into the net from approximately 15 yards away.
The Tigers had a chance to get a goal back in the match's dying moments as they won a penalty kick following a handled ball in the area. Austin Stone stepped up to the spot, but reserve goalkeeper Damien Lewis guessed correctly and tipped the shot off of the post and out of danger.
With the victory, the Matadors finished unbeaten in the Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament. Northridge returns to action with a highly anticipated match against the San Diego Toreros on Friday, Sept. 6 at Matador Soccer Field. The match is part of a CSUN Soccer Doubleheader and will kick off at 5 p.m. followed by the Northridge women's program taking on Houston.
2013 Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament Best XI:
Dominic McGarr (Albany)
Fermin Villalba (Cal State Fullerton)
Zach Bryan (Cal State Fullerton)
Mark Sherrod (Memphis)
Austin Stone (Memphis)
Shane Keely (Memphis)
Beto Velasquez (CSUN)
Brian Behrad (CSUN)
Chris Smith (CSUN)
Trevor Morley (CSUN) – Defensive MVP
Sagi Lev-Ari (CSUN) – Offensive MVP