Aug. 20, 2009
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Cal State Northridge Men's Soccer Head Coach Terry Davila may have good reason to be optimistic about the 2009 season. With the return of eight starters, 20 total position players and 12 seniors, the Matadors are fielding one of the more experienced teams in comparison to past seasons.
"A lot of our kids have been there before so what we say is going to happen is not a mystery to them, because they've done it before," said Davila. "From that standpoint, experience helps a lot. They are very comfortable with us and one another, and they are willing to go fight for each other and try to win a Big West Championship."
The experienced players will be relied upon this season, as the Matadors will be tested with a tough schedule consisting of seven NCAA qualifiers which includes Fairleigh-Dickinson, Tulsa, Denver and two meetings with UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, a meeting at home against UC Davis and a road game at Cal Poly.
The Matadors are coming off their eighth consecutive winning season, with a 2008 overall record of 8-7-4 and a fifth place finish in the Big West with a 4-3-3 mark, however Davila and the Matadors still feel they can ascend higher and ultimately claim a conference title.
Along with his experience-laden team, Davila remains confident because of the return of key players who missed significant portions of the 2008 season. Rafael Garcia (Canoga Park, Calif.), Devin Deldo (Valencia, Calif.) and Moy Gomez (Panorama City Calif.) will all make their return to the field leaving Davila excited about the heights the Matadors can ascend to this season.
"We are happy that Rafael, Devin and Moy are returning to our program," added Davila. "They will all add depth to our roster along with our fine freshmen class. They had the opportunity to compete with us during in the spring season in light workouts and they played summer ball. We expect them to be 100% healthy by the start of the season."
For the past four seasons, the Matadors felt a sense of certainty at the goalkeeping position, as two-time Goalkeeper of the Year winner Kevin Guppy provided stifling defense in front of the net. However 2008 brought an end to his remarkable collegiate career, as Guppy left Cal State Northridge with the most wins in school history (37), the highest shutout total (27.5) and the second most saves (290) setting his place as one of the best goalkeepers in Northridge history. As the 2009 season approaches, with a position up for grabs and big shoes to fill, the Matadors will look to freshman Michael Abalos (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and sophomore Brandon Ibarra (Encino, Calif.) to anchor the Matador defense. Abalos has played club for the Pateadores and Ibarra appeared in two games during his freshman campaign.
"I don't think anyone can replace Kevin Guppy," said Davila. "We are not comparing our goalkeepers to Kevin. Michael and Brandon are competing very hard, working out, getting fit, and getting mentally tough. Brandon had an excellent spring with us. Michael didn't compete in the spring but he did train with us and he showed he has great potential. These two are going to be fine keepers in the Big West.
"We are not trying to say to them that they have to be Superman in the first couple of games, just do what you're good at, improve everyday and we will monitor their improvements so we will know what they're good at."
With six shutouts last season, the Matadors fielded one of the strongest defensive units in the Big West, which Davila believes will continue heading into the fall. Despite the departures of key defenders in Ben Cox and Bo Miller, the Matadors still will return key players from a season ago in Robert Pate (Chatsworth, Calif.), Chad Borak (Palmdale, Calif.) and Jeremy Hohn (Vacaville, Calif.).
All three upperclassmen have been the defensive core for the Matadors and were instrumental in preserving many tight wins. Pate, Borak and Hohn will also be relied upon to provide veteran leadership to the younger Matadors who will make up Davila's backline.
Pate had a successful 2008 season totaling five assists and seven shots, earning him an All-Big West Second Team selection and Big West Honorable Mention Borak had two assists and 11 shots.
Adding to veteran trio is sophomore Matthew Chavez (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and freshman Joe Franco (Monrovia, Calif.), who Davila feels will each contribute to making the Matador's backline that much stronger.
"We are really excited about our younger players like Matthew Chavez maturing and becoming a better player," added Davila. "Our redshirt freshman, Joey Franco is a phenomenal player, who is very tenacious and extremely competitive. Our backline will be one of the strongest parts of our team."
Adding to the deep Matador defense will be junior Nicholas Hamilton (Coronado, Calif.) and newcomers in Yuval Barak (Tel Aviv, Israel), Chris Smith (Palmdale, Calif.) and Thomas Jake Troy (Salt Lake City, Utah). Hamilton appeared in fourteen games in 2008, scoring a goal. Borak is a dedicated and disciplined left back who just completed his commitment to the Israeli National Army. Smith has played club with FC Barcelona and Troy has played club for La Roca FC.
Reminiscent to 2008, the Matadors are again stacked at the midfield position. Several returnees will take the field for Davila at the midfield position, including three-time All-Big West selection senior Sunghyun Kim (Los Angeles, Calif.). Kim had another fine season in 2008, scoring five goals, totaling seven assists, capping off his junior season with an All-Big West First Team honor and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America Second Team award.
Joining Kim is a mixture of returnees and newcomers that will take the field at the midfield position for coach Davila. Senior Dylan Riley (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), junior Luis Smith (San Diego, Calif.), sophomore Rafael Garcia, and newcomers such as Luis Gil (Fillmore, Calif.) and Eduardo Gonzalez (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) are some of the Matadors that make up a crowded and deep midfield for Cal State Northridge.
Riley had five assists and five points for the Matadors last season. Garcia played in only one game in 2008 because of a season-ending injury he suffered on opening day, but is expected to be back on the field by the start of the 2009 season. Newcomers Gil and Gonzalez are making their way to the Matadors by way of the Real So Cal soccer league.
Other Matador midfielders include senior Ruben Rodriguez (Ontario, Calif.), who appeared in all 19 games last season and had three shots on goal, sophomore Daniel Yoon (Yorba Linda, Calif.), who played in thirteen games, and freshmen Jesus Landeros (Oxnard, Calif.), Gustavo Villalobos (Van Nuys, Calif.) and Rene Anguiano (Los Angeles, Calif.). Landeros has played club with FC Barcelona and Villalobos was named to the 2008 All-West Valley First Team.
With such a large crop of midfielders, coach Davila will have to find creative ways of distributing playing time to every player, but he does not seem to be too worried about the decisions he must make.
"Everything will work out," added Davila. "We have very intelligent players, with soccer brains to go along with their talents. The cream always rises to the top and there will be enough time for everyone to play and contribute."
Upfront the Matadors will get an extra boost to an already talented group of forwards with the return of seniors Devin Deldo and Moy Gomez. Deldo, who was held to one game in 2008, will bring his seven career goals and nine career assists back to the field. Gomez in 12 games last season put together solid numbers with four goals scored along with eight points. Although each player has a track record of great offensive production, Davila says their goals are to make it through the season.
"Some of their goals are to complete the season healthy. I think their stats at the end of the year will speak for itself. I am happy with Devin and Moy and if they stay healthy, we will have a fine season upfront. They are very well coached and motivated to play and get on the field with one another."
The senior tandem will join several powerhouse attackers who had outstanding 2008 seasons. Team leader in goals a season ago, junior Camilo Rojas (Reseda, Calif.) returns after racking up seven goals for the Matadors, along with three assists and a team-leading 17 points, which earned him an All-Big West Second Team honor. Senior Cameron Sims (Ontario, Calif.) made an impressive debut in his inaugural season with Cal State Northridge, scoring the second most goals on the team with five, dishing out an assist and totaling 41 shots.
Joining his fellow upperclassmen is senior Milan Radovic (Chatsworth, Calif.), who made his return to the field last season playing seventeen games after he missed the entire 2007 season due to injury. Radovic contributed in 2008 with a goal, an assist, and he had seven shots on goal.
Adding to the Matador forwards is senior Adrian Lopez (Sylmar, Calif.) and redshirt sophomore Mattias Bonvehi (Lake Balboa, Calif.). Lopez has racked up six assists in two seasons as a Matador and Bonvehi scored two goals during his freshman season in 2007.
Entering his eleventh year, coach Davila is as optimistic as ever about his Matador team, as he feels his team has what it takes to win a Big West title. With the return of key upperclassmen, a roster filled with experience, and a talented freshman class coming in, coach Davila feels the 2009 roster can be one of the best teams he has had during his 10 years as head coach of the men's soccer program.
"Based on talent, we have one of the most well-rounded teams this year," added Davila. "We might have a player in the past that was significantly better than our current best player, but we have much more quality players. I am very comfortable saying that is going to be a very talented team from top to bottom."