September 18, 2013

Unbeaten No. 3 CSUN Welcomes UNLV, No. 11 UCLA to San Fernando Valley

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The Cal State Northridge Matadors return to the San Fernando Valley this week to host a pair of familiar foes in UNLV and No. 11 UCLA. Both matches this weekend are part of a CSUN Soccer Doubleheader with the women's program at Matador Soccer Field. On Friday, Sept. 20, the men's team will host UNLV at 5 p.m. followed by the women's side against Tulsa. On Sunday, Sept. 22, the women's team squares off against San Diego at 1 p.m. with the men battling UCLA under the lights at 7 p.m. The Matadors are on a six-match winning streak to open the season and have three non-conference clashes left before the start of the Big West Conference slate. Both men's matches this week will feature live stats coverage and an Internet-only audio broadcast available for free on GoMatadors.com. Following the two matches this weekend, CSUN will play its next three on the road before returning to Northridge on October 11.

Match #7:
#3 Cal State Northridge (6-0) vs. UNLV (2-3)

Friday, Sept. 20 - 5:00 p.m.
Matador Soccer Field (1,900) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats and Audio: Link Available on Men's Soccer Schedule Page

Match #8:
#3 Cal State Northridge (6-0) vs. #11 UCLA (3-1-1)

Sunday, Sept. 22 - 7:00 p.m.
Matador Soccer Field (1,900) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats and Audio: Link Available on Men's Soccer Schedule Page

Follow Your Matadors Online
All home games this season will include live stats coverage and selected contests will also feature a free audio broadcast on GoMatadors.com. For road games, related links to the game, including for any live stats, audio and video, will be posted before the game on the men's soccer schedule page of GoMatadors.com. Fans are also encouraged to check the Cal State Northridge Athletics Department's official Twitter feed (@GoMatadors) and the soccer-specific feed (@CSUNMensSoccer) for updates of games in progress and news and notes throughout the week.

Take Your Seat In The Front Row
Fans can now follow all of the action for Cal State Northridge's 18 varsity sports right from their phone or tablet! CSUN Front Row, the official mobile app of Cal State Northridge Athletics, is available for free for your iOS and Android devices. You can also access live stats coverage of a majority of CSUN home events, as well as audio and video links when available. For more information, search for CSUN Front Row on the App Store or Google Play or visit GoMatadors.com/frontrow.

History In The Making
After sweeping the TLC Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Lobo Invitational in New Mexico last weekend, the Cal State Northridge Matadors extended their best start in the program's Division-I era. In fact, the Matadors are 6-0 in men's soccer for the first time since 1987 when the team made a run to the NCAA Division II National Championship match. The 1979 team was also 6-0 at one point, and is the only squad in school history to improve to 7-0. Northridge has the chance to match the feat this week with a contest on Friday, Sept. 20, against the UNLV Rebels. Although CSUN has dropped the last two to UNLV, the Matadors hold a 9-8 edge in the series and are 4-2 at Matador Soccer Field. A clash with No. 11 UCLA awaits CSUN on Sunday, Sept. 22 in what could prove to be an historic night for Northridge soccer.

A Closer Look at UNLV
The UNLV Rebels enter the week with a 2-3-0 record, though the numbers can be a bit misleading. The Rebels opened the season with losses at Delaware and UMBC, but the Bluehens are now 5-1-0 and the Retrievers sit at 6-0-0. Following the road trip, UNLV won home matches over Bradley, who knocked off top-ranked UConn on the road this season, and Georgia State. Most recently, UNLV dropped a 2-0 decision to Gonzaga in Las Vegas. Cal State Northridge has not defeated the Rebels since 2008 and hasn't won at Matador Soccer Field in the series since 2004.

Rodrigo Fuentes leads the offense for the Rebels with three goals, three assists and nine points. He is also the leader with 14 shots taken so far this year. Joaquin Rivas is second on the stat sheet with a pair of goals, two assists and six points. On the season, the Rebels have been outscored 11-10. However, in both wins the team put up four goals on their opposition. UNLV averages two goals scored per game but have a team goals against average of 2.20.

Joe Vitale has spent all 450 minutes in goal for UNLV this year. In five matches, he has not recorded a shutout and owns a 2.20 GAA. Vitale has made 14 saves and has a save percentage of .560. Following the match against CSUN on Friday evening, the Rebels will head to the Inland Empire to take on UC Riverside, a team that is currently 4-0-1 in 2013.

A Closer Look at No. 11 UCLA
The No. 11 UCLA Bruins have had a very impressive start to the 2013 season. UCLA started the season with a scoreless draw against then-No. 7 Notre Dame before knocking off defending national champion and then-No. 1 Indiana on the road. The Bruins also have wins over UC Santa Barbara and San Diego but were beaten this season by Cal Poly and are currently 3-1-1.

Leo Stolz leads the team with two goals and five points this year. He is also one of five Bruins with an assist to his credit. Victor Chavez and Brian Iloski are the other two UCLA players with a goal scored and the team has also been gifted an own goal this season. Chavez is the leader in shots with 10. As a team, the Bruins have registered 54 shots, 22 shots on goal and five goals while combining for 15 points.

Goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. has seen all of the action in the net for UCLA through five matches. Edwards Jr. has recorded three shutouts for the Bruins and has a 0.94 goals against average after allowing five goals. He has made 13 saves for a .722 save percentage as well. Collectively, the Bruins hae allowed their opponents to take an average of six corner kicks per match and UCLA has also been shown 11 yellow cards and three reds. Prior to their match at CSUN, UCLA will face UC Irvine Thursday.

I'm Not a Machine, I'm Just Brian
Senior forward Brian Behrad may not literally be a machine, but he has had a role in a quarter of CSUN's goal output so far this season. Through six matches, Behrad is second on the team with five goals and also has an assist. He scored both goals in the Matadors' 2-1 come-from-behind win over Saint Mary's, including a header with six seconds left in the first overtime to help CSUN to its fourth-straight win. For his work against San Diego and Saint Mary's (three goals, two game winners), Behrad was named the Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week and earned a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. Against then-No. 9 New Mexico, Behrad created a goal for himself by stealing the ball at midfield and outrunning the Lobo defense before beating the goalkeeper.

Striking Features
Redshirt junior Edwin Rivas started off the season by helping the Matadors win the championship at the Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament. In the title game against Memphis on September 1st, Rivas' cross found Sagi Lev-Ari for a goal that tied the match at 1-1. Against Central Arkansas he sealed the victory with his first goal of the season, a strike in the 84th minute. He is currently second on the team with 18 shots and is also among the team leaders with seven shots on goal. For his career, Rivas now has 14 goals, five assists and 33 points.

Keep Calm and Sagi On
Junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari is on a tear at the beginning of the 2013 campaign. Lev-Ari became the first Matador to record a hat trick since Willie Sims in 2005 when he netted three goals on September 1st against Memphis. For his work over the opening weekend, he was named to the National Team of the Week by both TopDrawerSoccer.com and College Soccer News. At the TLC Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Lobo Invitational, he scored twice against Central Arkansas and added a goal and an assist in CSUN's historic win over New Mexico. He was named to the CSN National Team of the Week again for his work. His seven goals this season lead the Big West. Lev-Ari now has 22 goals and 45 points in 28 career matches for Northridge.

Mr. Assist
Senior midfielder Carlos Benavides is on his way to becoming the Big West leader in assists for the third straight year. In the Matadors' 4-1 win over Memphis on September 1st, Benavides picked up a game-winning assist on the goal that put Northridge ahead 2-1. He also had the game-winning assist in the win at New Mexico. During the preseason, Benavides was ranked 38th in Top Drawer Soccer's annual list of the Top 100 Men's College Soccer players. For his career, Benavides currently ranks 10th in Northridge Soccer history with 20 assists.

The Valley's Own
Senior midfielder Beto Velasquez was dynamic in CSUN's two victories during the opening weekend. He recorded two assists against Albany on August 30th and currently leads the team in that category (4). A wing player for the Matadors, Velasquez was able to wear down the defense to help create chances for his teammates in front of goal. He added an assist in wins over San Diego and Saint Mary's as well. For his career at CSUN, Velasquez has eight goals, five assists and 21 points.

You Really Like It, You Want Mor-ley
Sophomore centerback Trevor Morley is the lone starter returning to the Northridge defense this season.During the opening weekend of the season, Morley helped the Matadors record a shutout over Albany and a convincing win over Memphis. He had an assist against the Great Danes and was named to the Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament's Best XI team. He also was named the Defensive MVP at the Lobo Invitational as the Matadors topped Central Arkansas and New Mexico. For his work in Albuquerque, Morley earned a spot on TopDrawerSoccer.com's National Team of the Week.

One Plus One Is Three Or Four
Senior forward Brian Behrad was the first Matador to put up a goal and an assist in the same match this season when he did so in the first match of the season against Albany. In the 68th minute, Behrad received a cross from the right side and bounced a header in over the goalkeeper's head. Just over a minute later, he created a turnover in the midfield and had a breakaway at goal. His initial shot was deflected by the goalkeeper to teammate Chris Smith, who slotted home a shot into the empty net. Sagi Lev-Ari was the first with a multi-goal game when he scored a hat trick against Memphis two days later. Behrad headed home a pair of goals to pick up four points in CSUN's 2-1 overtime win over Saint Mary's, while Lev-Ari had two goals against Central Arkansas and a goal and an assist at New Mexico.

Matadors In The Big West Top Ten
In the third Big West statistical standings release of the season, the Cal State Northridge Matadors rank at or near the top of numerous categories as a team and individually. The Matadors have fired off the most shots (105) so far and have tallied the most points (59). Through six matches, Northridge's 18 goals are the most in the country and its 3.00 goals per game average is tops in Division I as well. The Matadors are also the nation's leaders in assists (23) and assists per game (3.83). Defensively, CSUN is sixth in the Big West with six goals allowed and a 0.98 goals against average.

Individually, forward Sagi Lev-Ari leads the league with 26 shots, is second with 4.33 shots per game, and is the leader with 15 points. He is also first in the conference with seven goals while teammate Brian Behrad is second with five. Edwin Rivas is tied for second with 18 shots and Behrad is second in the league with 11 points. Chris Smith ties for fourth with seven points and Beto Velasquez is first in the Big West with four assists. Velasquez's 0.67 assists per game average also puts him first in the Big West. Defensively, goalkeeper Adam Hobbs ranks sixth in the conference with a 0.89 goals against average and is fifth with a .750 save percentage.

Poll Position
Cal State Northridge continues to climb in Top 25 polls after going 6-0-0 to start the season for the first time since 1987. This week, the Matadors achieved the highest national ranking in school history and are currently ranked 3rd by the NSCAA, 4th by Soccer Times, 5th by TopDrawerSoccer.com, 6th by College Soccer News, and 9th by Soccer America. CSUN is ranked as the best team in the NSCAA's Far West Region after defeating then-No. 9 New Mexico on the road last week. The team was also picked to repeat as champions of the Big West South Division in a preseason poll of head coaches in the conference. Northridge, which won the regular season crown and the Big West Tournament title,received six first-place votes in the poll and 30 points overall. UC Irvine was picked second, followed by Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside in the division. In the North, the coaches tabbed UC Santa Barbara as favorites with five first-place votes. The Gauchos were followed by UC Davis, Cal Poly and Sacramento State.

Manufacturing Points
Through three weeks of the season, the Matadors have started racking up points on the offensive side of the game. Across the first two matches against Albany and Memphis, Cal State Northridge scored seven goals and tallied 10 assists while holding the opposition to just one goal and one assist. Thirteen different Matadors have recorded at least one point already this year, led by Sagi Lev-Ari with 15. Brian Behrad is second on the team with 11. Chris Smith (7) and Yarden Azulay (4) also find themselves on the scoresheet. Pol Schonofer Bartra scored the first CSUN goal this season and has two points while Beto Velasquez leads the team with four assists and also has four points. Edwin Rivas (3), Steven Manios (3), David Turcios (3), Carlos Benavides (2), Juan Samayoa (2), Mynor Giron (2) and Trevor Morley (1) round out the list of point scorers for Northridge.

Quick Out Of The Gates
Northridge is 23-11-2 all-time in season openers, including wins in the past three. Northridge took a 3-0 decision against Albany to open this season, cruised by Portland University 4-0 at the 2012 Wilson Titan Classic, and defeated Canisius at Matador Soccer Field 2-0 in 2011. Northridge started the year 2-0 for the second time since the 2005 campaign and second year in a row. Both the 2005 and 2012 Matadors earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Matadors are 27-9 in home openers after a win over Albany on August 30. They are 21-7-4 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 9-1-2 all-time in Big West Conference openers after defeating the UC Davis Aggies 2-0 on Sept. 28, 2012. 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.

Welcome To The Family
Cal Sate Northridge has a lot of new faces in the program this season as the Matadors hope to repeat in the Big West. Eleven new additions join five redshirt freshmen as players hoping to make their mark on the field this year. Northridge, which saw the graduation of three starting defenders and its starting goalkeeper, has recruited in a number of prospects that give the coaching staff multiple options all over the field. In all, CSUN has three first-year goalkeepers, nine new players that can line up on defense and four that can step in as midfielders or forwards. The Matadors also return their top seven point recorders from a year ago, including the top four in goals scored.

Redefining The "Matador Defense"
The Cal State Northridge Matadors don't just let anyone compete on the team. A major requirement for each player is the ability to play a tough and aggressive style of defense at every position. In addition to the top defensive player in the Big West Conference last season, the Matadors also lost the league's top goalkeeper and two other defensive starters to graduation. However, the Matadors have not lost a step and are showing that they are still a dominate force on both sides of the ball. Sophomore center back Trevor Morley was named the Defensive MVP at both the Ryan Rossi Memorial Tournament to open the season and the TLC Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Lobo Invitational. Forward Brian Behrad forced multiple turnovers in the midfield and sprung a run that led to a goal for Chris Smith against Albany in the season opener. In total, the Matadors held their opponents to just one goal on a combined 16 shots through the first two games of the year. The team conceded only five corner kicks and five shots on goal while posting a shutout and outscoring the opposition by six goals. In addition to playing stout defense, Morley was credited with an assist against Albany on a goal scored by fellow center back Pol Schonhofer Bartra.

We Must Protect This House
The Matadors have a healthy dose of home matches on the schedule this season, which should help the team make a run toward the postseason. Northridge plays just three matches away from Matador Soccer Field before the start of Big West play in October. In addition to a road match at Bradley next week, the Matadors competed in the 2013 TLC Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Lobo Invitaitonal hosted by the University of New Mexico. Northridge squared off against Central Arkansas in a neutral-site match before battling the UNM Lobos to conclude the tournament. Overall, CSUN will play seven true road matches and one at a neutral site out of the 19 matches on the ledger this season. Last season, Northridge went 7-3 in home matches.

Getting the Job Done
Since going 3-14-2 in the 2010 season, the Matadors have rebuilt the program and in turn have come away with impressive results along the way. In 2011, Northridge earned wins over No. 19 Cal State Fullerton and No. 7 UCLA while finishing 8-8-3. Last season, the team was impressive offensively in a pair of 5-0 victories at home against Army (9/14) and at San Diego (9/20). Prior to 2012, 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. The team then defeated Cal Poly 2-0 in the Big West Semifinals and outlasted UC Davis 1-0 in the Final to capture the program's first Big West Tournament Championship in history. Already this year, the team is off to a 6-0 start for just the third time in history and was able to exercise their demons by upsetting then-No. 9 New Mexico in Albuquerque for the first time ever.