Ball Doesn't Bounce Matadors' Way in 2-1 Defeat at Fullerton

Oct. 7, 2009

Box Score

FULLERTON, Calif. - Ninety minutes would not be enough time to decide a winner in Cal State Northridge's (6-4-1, 1-1-0 BWC) game against the Cal State Fullerton Titans (5-1-1, 1-1-0 BWC) Wednesday evening as a 1-1 tie after regulation forced to Matadors to compete in only their second overtime game of the season.

Unfortunately for CSUN a second, ten-minute overtime period would not be needed as Fullerton scored the game-winning goal with .33 seconds left in the first overtime session to give the Matadors their first Big West loss of the season.

Throughout the first 45 minutes of action, both teams tried to establish themselves on offense; the Matadors were deliberate and disciplined in their passing from one side of the pitch to the other in an effort bend the Titan defense to their advantage while Cal State Fullerton counterattacked on any and every opportunity that came their way.

In what was no surprise to anyone in attendance, the Matador defense quickly squelched any Titan scoring opportunity from morphing into a serious threat.

The Titans had three corner kicks and two free kicks within scoring range, opportunities that were all eradicated within seconds as the backline would quickly clear the ball out of their third of the field and did their part to help preserve a scoreless tie at the half.

It took only eleven minutes for CSUN to score the first goal of the game when Cameron Sims scored his team-high fourth goal of the season in the 56th minute off a pass across the penalty area from the foot of Robert Pate.

Once Sims gained full control of Pate's pass, he quickly fired away at the lower left-hand corner of the goal, a shot that ricocheted off both the near post and the leg of the Titan goalkeeper before coming to a rest inside the Titan goal.

Pate earned his first assist of the season on the play

The score remained in the Matadors advantage until the Titans scored the equalizing goal in the 75th minute off a free kick taken from just outside the penalty box.

With momentum squarely on their side, the Titans created another scoring opportunity within just a few minutes. Instead of taking the lead Matador goalkeeper Michael Abalos made a brilliant point-blank save to preserve the 1-1 tie and force both teams to continue battling one another in overtime.

This was only the second overtime game for the Matadors this season; their first overtime contest also took place at Titan Stadium with CSUN and Denver settling for a scoreless tie after 110 minutes of action. No stranger to overtime games this season, Wednesday's game marked the fourth consecutive occasion at Titan Stadium that Fullerton would need extra time to decide the outcome of their game.

Pate would provide the Matadors with their first serious scoring opportunity only minutes into overtime as he stole the ball from a Titan defender inside Fullerton's penalty area, and watched his shot bounce only inches away from Fullerton's goal. Fullerton's most serious scoring threat took place within the last minute of the first overtime period; a Fullerton long ball on their counterattack that eventually set up the chain of events that would eventually decide the outcome of the game.

If the pass had found its intended mark, perhaps things would have turned out differently for Northridge, instead a Fullerton long ball sailed over everyone's head and slowly bounced down the field towards Abalos and the Northridge goal.

Since the pass was not kicked hard enough to control cleanly within his penalty area Abalos needed to make a split-second decision - either wait for the ball and hope it rolls to him before Fullerton midfielder Oscar Aguero gained possession, or make a play on the ball and safely knock it out of the immediate area.

With Aguero and the Matador backline sprinting towards a bouncing long ball, Abalos made the correct decision to make a play on the ball and knock it out of immediate danger. Unfortunately for the Matador goalkeeper, Aguero was only a few feet away from the ball himself, setting up a 50/50 ball that could potentially become the defining play of the game.

Even though Abalos and Aguero both made a play for the same ball at the same time, it was the Matador `keeper who kept his poise and knocked the ball out of harm's way before each player crashed into one another and fell to the turf.

With the point of impact taking place just a few feet outside the penalty box, Abalos was successful in making the play that was needed to preserve the 1-1 tie and his team's chance of winning the game.

However a penalty was called on the play on Abalos, giving Fullerton one last opportunity to score before the first ten-minute overtime session expired.

It was that free kick that turned into the game-winning shot for Fullerton; after being initially blocked by the wall of Northridge defenders, the ball rebounded to the foot of Fullerton forward Shay Spitz who quickly passed the ball to Aguero for the game-winning shot.

For the first time in almost four weeks, Northridge will compete at Matador Field in their Big West home-opener against UC Irvine this Saturday. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.