NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Behind a pair of goals by Sagi Lev-Ari and two assists by David Turcios, the No. 4 Cal State Northridge Matadors (11-2-0, 3-1-0 Big West) topped the Cal Poly Mustangs (8-6-0, 1-3-0 Big West) 3-1 on Sunday night at Matador Soccer Field. Northridge scored twice in the second half and goalkeeper Adam Hobbs tallied six saves to help the Matadors keep pace at the top of the standings in the Big West South Division.
"We're a high-powered offense and we played great defense," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. "I'm happy about the way we responded [from Friday's loss to UCSB]. Our team has 100 percent comeback in them; we don't lose two games in a row."
The Mustangs had the first attempt on goal in the match in the fourth minute of play, but Hobbs was able to make an easy save. However, an ill-timed turnover in the 19th minute led to Cal Poly scoring the first goal of the contest.
As the Mustangs were putting heavy pressure on the defensive line of the Matadors, Cal Poly's Matt LaGrassa stole the ball inside the Northridge box and tactfully put it into the back of the net for the goal. The goal worked to add energy to the Cal Poly side, who had not scored a goal against Cal State Northridge since the 2010 season.
The excitement for Cal Poly was short lived, as Lev-Ari scored his first of two goals just four and a half minutes later. Carlos Benavides played a pass to Edwin Rivas in the left side of the box and Rivas centered a pass that Lev-Ari slammed home from a few yards out. With the assist, Benavides moved into the Top 10 for career assists in Big West Conference history (10th, 21).
Northridge nearly found itself in front in the 40th minute but an acrobatic bicycle kick by Brian Behrad was touched just over the crossbar by Cal Poly goalkeeper Wade Hamilton.
The half ended with the scoreline even at 1-1 thanks to three more saves by Hobbs, including a diving effort off the foot of George Malki. Cal Poly led in shots (8-6) and the Matadors had more corner kicks (5-0) at the break.
"I'm just trying to do my job at the back and keep the ball out of the back of the net," said Hobbs. "I want to give us a chance to get to the other end of the field and put the ball in their net, and that's what we did."
Things got interesting for Cal Poly in the 55th minute as the Mustangs won a foul at the very edge of the box, narrowly missing out on a potential penalty kick. The resulting shot by Kip Colvey went just over the crossbar.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Northridge found the net again after a long breakaway by Beto Velasquez. Lev-Ari started the play with a headed ball to Turcios after the Matadors cleared their defensive lines. Turcios then chipped ahead for Velasquez, who beat Hamilton 1-on-1 to the left side of the goal.
"We've been working in practice about being dangerous in the middle of the field," said Velasquez. "I saw the run and took it and David played a great ball. I saw the goalie cheating and that's when I poked it past him."
In the 65th minute, Lev-Ari extended the Northridge lead to 3-1 after another counter-attack involving Turcios. Mynor Giron started the play with a lob upfield that found Turcios alone with the goalkeeper. Turcios drew Hamilton off his line and slotted the ball to Lev-Ari who was running in support at the left post for a simple goal, his conference-best 11th of the season.
"One of our strengths is counters, that's what we're good at," said Turcios. "We work each day on attacking when they're most vulnerable and not in their defensive shape, and we were able to succeed with that tonight."
With the win, the Matadors now have nine points in conference play and are tied on points with Cal State Fullerton after four matched. Northridge will hit the road for its next contest at UC Riverside (10/19, 7 p.m.) before returning home for a clash against the Titans at Matador Soccer Field (10/23, 7 p.m.).