NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The No. 13 Cal State Northridge Matadors will play their final home regular-season match this week when they host the Highlanders of UC Riverside on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. The last time the two sides met, the Matadors and Highlanders played to a scoreless draw on October 19th at UC Riverside Soccer Stadium. After going 1-1 at home last week, Cal State Northridge can wrap up a spot in the Big West Conference Tournament with a win or draw against UCR on Saturday night. With three matches remaining in the regular season, CSUN is tied for the top spot in the conference's South Division and looking to repeat as division and conference champions. The match against UC Riverside this weekend represents Senior Night and the four senior members of the team, Brian Behrad, Carlos Benavides, Chris Smith and Beto Velasquez, will be recognized in a prematch ceremony at Matador Soccer Field. Next week, the Matadors will travel to Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine for the final matches before the postseason.
#13 Cal State Northridge (12-3-1, 4-2-1 Big West) vs. UC Riverside (7-6-3, 2-4-1)
Saturday, Nov. 2 - 7 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.
Cal State Northridge continues to cement its place in Top 25 polls after going 12-3-1 and starting the year with seven wins for only the second time in school history (1979). This week, the Matadors are ranked 13th by the NSCAA, 7th by College Soccer News, 21st by TopDrawerSoccer.com, and 19th by Soccer America after going 1-1 at home last week. The Soccer Times poll was not released prior to press time. CSUN is also ranked 20th in the NCAA RPI. 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.
A Closer Look at UC Riverside
The UC Riverside Highlanders enter the week at 7-6-3 overall and 2-3-1 in Big West play after splitting matches against UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton last week. Since playing CSUN to a scoreless draw at home on Octoober 19th, the Highlanders dropped a match to UC Irvine and topped Cal State Fullerton on the road. In away matches this year, UCR is 1-4-2 and is looking to stay in the hunt for the Big West Tournament this week.
Aaron Long and Romario Lomeli lead UC Riverside in scoring with three goals and Lomeli adds an assist for seven points. Ivan Garcia, a veteran on the team, has two goals and two assists for six points this year. As a team, the Highlanders average 0.94 goals per game but are being outscored by the opposition 21-15. Although they've earned six shutouts, they have equally been held without a goal on seven occasions.
KC John has seen the most time in net for the Highlanders, but Ashkan Khosravi was the starter the last time these two teams met. John is 5-4-2 and was the starter until UCR suffered a 5-1 loss at Cal Poly on October 4. Since then, Khosravi has been the man in goal and is 2-2-1 with two shutouts and 20 saves in five matches. He has allowed five goals on the year and has a 0.96 goals against average. It is unclear who the Highlanders will start in goal this week, but as a team UC Riverside has a 1.26 goals against average and Northridge has had success in the past against Khosravi, defeating UCR twice last season.
Following the match at CSUN, the Highlanders will host UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton next week to close the regular season.
The Big West Tournament Picture
Five of the six spots in the Big West Tournament are still up for grabs as three matches remain in the regular season. Last week, UC Santa Barbara clinched the regular-season title in the North Division and will receive a bye to the semifinal round. There is still plenty to be sorted out, however, as the three remaining teams in the North and all four in the South can still potentially earn a berth to the conference tournament. With just one match day this week, the results of two matches will help clear up the postseason picture. Cal Poly will punch their ticket with a win or draw against Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge clinches a spot with a win or draw against UC Riverside. The Matadors are tied on points with UC Irvine at the top of the South Division and will keep an eye on the Anteaters' match against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday as well.
The top three teams from each division will earn a spot in the Big West Tournament, with the top overall seeds earning a bye. The second-place finisher from each division will host the third-place team from the opposite division in the first round of the conference tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The winner of the South #2 vs. North #3 match will travel to face the regular season champion of the North Division while the winner of North #2 vs. South #3 will head to the South champion in the semifinal round. Semifinal winners will then square off in the Big West Tournament Final on Sunday, Nov. 17.
Due to their play against teams from the North Division in the early part of the conference season, the South Division holds the tiebreaker for hosting the Big West Tournament Final. This means that should two identical seeds reach the championship match (1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, or 3 vs. 3), the team from the South Division will be the host. Any other seeding matchup will have the higher seed host as normal.
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 over a quarter of CSUN's goal output so far this season. Through 16 matches, Behrad is second on the team with six goals and also has three assists. 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 and he had the game-winning goal at UC Davis.
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 41 shots and is also among the team leaders with 17 shots on goal. He scored a goal at both Sacramento State and UC Davis as well. Against Cal Poly, Rivas had an assist on Sagi Lev-Ari's goal that tied the match before CSUN won 3-1. For his career, Rivas now has 16 goals, seven assists and 39 points.
Keep Calm and Sagi On
Junior forward Sagi 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. He added a pair of assists at Sacramento State and had one against Cal Poly. Lev-Ari ranks fourth among goalscorers in Division I with 11 goals and now has 26 goals and 57 points in 38 career matches for Northridge.
Senior midfielder Carlos Benavides continues to climb the all-time leaderboard in assists. 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 has 22 assists, ranking ninth all-time in CSUN history and tying for ninth in Big West history.
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 (7). Velasquez scored a goal in back-to-back matches after striking against both UNLV and then-No. 11 UCLA. He added an assist in wins over San Diego and Saint Mary's as well. At Bradley, Velasquez earned a game-winning assist for a chip to Tanner Snedigar that was headed home in the 89th minute. In the overtime win against Cal State Fullerton, he scored a goal and added the game-winning assist just over a minute into the added period. For his career at CSUN, Velasquez has 13 goals, eight assists and 34 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 year, 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 then-No. 9 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 year 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. Beto Velasquez did it most recently with a goal and the game-winning assist in a win over Cal State Fullerton. As a team, the Matadors have had a player record at least three points in a game 10 times.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
In the ninth 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 third-most shots in the league (234) so far and have tallied the most points in the country (116). Through 16 matches, Northridge's 34 goals and its 2.12 goals per game average rank second in the league. The Matadors are the nation's leaders in assists (48) and assists per game (3.00). Defensively, CSUN is tied for third in the Big West with 16 goals allowed and is fourth with a 0.97 goals against average.
Individually, forward Sagi Lev-Ari is third in the league with 48 shots and 3.00 shots per game. Lev-Ari is also seventh in the country with 11 goals and is fifth with 27 points. Brian Behrad is fourth in the Big West with six goals. Edwin Rivas is fifth with 41 shots and Behrad is sixth in the league with 15 points. Beto Velasquez is tied for first in the conference with seven assists and has 17 points while Chris Smith, David Turcios and Lev-Ari tie for sixth in assists (5). Defensively, goalkeeper Adam Hobbs ranks fourth in the conference with a 0.95 goals against average and a .769 save percentage. Stats include matches through October 21, 2013.
Through the first month and a half 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. Fourteen different Matadors have recorded at least one point already this year, led by Sagi Lev-Ari with a robust 27. Brian Behrad (six goals, three assists) has 15 and Beto Velasquez (five goals, seven assists) is also among the team leaders with 17 points . Chris Smith (11) and Yarden Azulay (8) also find themselves on the scoresheet while Pol Schonofer Bartra scored the first CSUN goal this season and has two points. Edwin Rivas (9), Steven Manios (4), David Turcios (9), Carlos Benavides (4), Juan Samayoa (3), Mynor Giron (4), Tanner Snedigar (2) and Trevor Morley (1) round out the list of point scorers for Northridge.
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 was off to an 10-1 start for just the second time in history and was able to exercise their demons by upsetting then-No. 9 New Mexico in Albuquerque for the first time ever.