NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Just over a minute into the first overtime period, Cal State Northridge midfielder David Turcios finished a thrilling kick to send the Matadors (12-2-1, 4-1-1 Big West) to a 2-1 win over the Cal State Fullerton Titans (6-7-1, 3-2-1 Big West) on Wednesday night at Matador Soccer Field. Beto Velasquez had a goal as well and his cross in overtime was spilled before Turcios put an exclamation point on the evening for CSUN.
"It feels great. We got three points and are in first place now because of our team effort," said Turcios after the match. "Being the one to score the winning goal and have everyone there celebrating with you is a good feeling."
The match seemed destined for late heroics after the teams played a scoreless first half. Northridge had the overwhelming majority of chances at goal, firing off 13 shots in the first 45 minutes but only forcing Fullerton's Bryan Escalante to make two saves. In the first half alone the Matadors took seven corner kicks but were unable to find the back of the net.
CSUN found a breakthrough just under six minutes into the second half to break a scoreless drought that reached 225 minutes before that point. In the 51st minute of play Brian Behrad played a ball into the penalty area to Sagi Lev-Ari, who then laid it off for Velasquez at the top of the box. Velasquez then sent a laser shot toward the top left corner that hit the underside of the crossbar before finding the net for his fifth goal of the year.
Shortley thereafter, the tide began to swing in the favor of the Titans as Northridge defender Trevor Morley was shown a straight red card after a tackle at the edge of the box in the 55th minute. The subsequent shot by Colin Okirie was saved by CSUN goalkeeper Adam Hobbs as the Matadors began a stretch of nearly 37 minutes playing down a man.
"Right away [after the red] we reminded our guys that the game still counts and is still important regardless of how we perform and they perform," said senior Chris Smith.
Just four minutes later Cal State Fullerton capitalized on the advantage to tie the match at one goal apiece. Amara Soumah stole the ball from the Northridge defense, dribbled inside the left portion of the box and slotted a shot past Hobbs for his third goal of the year.
For the next 25 minutes the Matadors opted to play more defensively but occasionally worked the counter attack to spring opportunities at goal. In the 65th minute Yarden Azulay had his shot saved by Escalante and in the 71st Smith and Behrad worked a quick combination that led to Behrad's shot beating the goalkeeper but hitting the post.
"Chris and I have a good chemistry on the field," said Behrad. "He saw me and I made the run, it was just unlucky that it hit the post. I should've put it away because it was a perfect pass."
In the 78th minute Northridge won a free kick on the left side of the field and sent a cross to Gabe Robinson, whose ensuing header hit the crossbar and stayed out. Cal State Fullerton midfielder Garrett Losee had the same luck in the 88th minute when his curling shot in the box beat Hobbs but hit the left post and went wide, sending the match to overtime.
With as many near-miss opportunities that each team had late in the second half, it was fitting that the golden goal would be scored on the first chance in overtime.
After a long run up the right flank Carlos Benavides passed the ball to Velasquez at the endline near the right corner flag. Escalante came off his line to play Velasquez's cross into the area but had it slip out of his hands right to Turcios before the sophomore's acrobatic kick toward his left side beat the goalkeeper and found the net.
"I originally wanted to run to the first post but I saw Beto didn't cross it yet so I turned my back and was heading back on defense," said Turcios. "I saw the goalie drop the ball and I took the opportunity and shot it, made sure I wasn't offside. Thank God it went in."
With the win, the Matadors are in sole possession of first place in the Big West South Division at 13 points with four matches remaining while the Titans move into a tie with UC Irvine for second at 10 points. Cal State Northridge will host UC Irvine on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. as both sides fight toward a spot in the Big West Tournament.
Cal State Northridge will secure a berth to the Big West Tournament with a win over UC Irvine and a UC Riverside loss or draw at Cal State Fullerton, or a draw against UCI and a UCR loss to the Titans.