Matador Men's Soccer Season Review

Dec. 20, 2009

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Despite enduring some tough losses, Head Coach Terry Davila led the 2009 Matadors through rough patches to the program's most successful season in four years. For the first time since 2005, the men's soccer program tasted playoff action and had their first double digit win season at 10-8-2.

The Matadors gained significant contributions from every position on their team. With the leadership and poise of their ten returning seniors and the emergence of several of their young players, CSUN would have many highlights in 2009 including two tournament victories, their first five-game winning streak in the last four years, and wins over NCAA College Cup participants: UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Loyola Marymount and Tulsa.

Also in 2009, the Matadors received national recognition for their play on the field. They earned a #24 ranking from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America after six games, which marked the first time the team had been nationally ranked since 2006.

Seniors Cameron Sims and Dylan Riley each earned Big West Player of the Week honors on consecutive weeks early in the season, with Devin Deldo claiming the final weekly honor with his two-goal performance at UC Irvine in CSUN's final game of the season; a game that helped the men in red clinch a spot in the post-season.

Their 2009 opener took them south to the campus of the University of San Diego. Sophomore goalkeeper Brandon Ibarra made his first career start at net for Northridge and played well saving five shots. However, Ibarra's efforts were not enough as the Matadors were unable to breakthrough with a goal in the contest, while the Toreros found the back of the net twice with two late second half goals for a 2-0 win over the Matadors.

Following the tough loss in San Diego, the Matadors quickly set their sights on their home opener at Matador Field, where a tough challenge awaited in Loyola Marymount. Although the Matadors led the all-series at 11-7-2 coming into the match, they had not defeated the Lions since November 15, 1997; a stretch that saw the Matadors compile a 0-5-2 against LMU.

With recent history not on their side, CSUN took the field against the Lions and controlled the pace of the game throughout most of the first half. Despite outshooting LMU 9-5 in the first half, the game remained scoreless at the half.

Moments into the second half, senior Moy Gomez finally broke the tie with a goal off a cross from Sunghyun Kim that put CSUN ahead 1-0. The goal was more than enough for Ibarra who eventually earned his first career shutout and the Matadors' first win of the season.

Next, the Matadors were set to host the Matador Challenge, a four-team tournament with Fairleigh-Dickinson, UW-Milwaukee, Cal State Fullerton and the host Matadors participating in the three day event.

The first opponent for Northridge was the Fairleigh-Dickinson Knights; a team that gave the hosts fits on both sides of the field until Sims headed in a goal off a corner pass from Milan Radovic in the 65th minute for the first goal of the game.

Later in the 82nd minute, Robert Pate kicked in an insurance goal that ultimately gave the Matadors a 2-0 win, giving Ibarra his second straight shutout.

CSUN concluded their tournament with another win, this time in dramatic fashion over UW-Milwaukee.

The Panthers scored early on in the contest, heading in a goal in the 2nd minute of play. But for the third straight contest though, the Matadors picked up late goals in the second half to give themselves an opportunity to earn the victory.

Following a handball violation in front of the Panther net, Kim took full advantage of the penalty kick opportunity that was awarded to his team for his first goal of the season.

Sims put the Matadors ahead for good in the 78th minute with his second goal in as many games for his first game winner. The Matadors finished 2-0 over the weekend and were declared co-champions of the Matador Challenge along with the Titans who also defeated their two scheduled opponents.

The Matadors returned to the road looking to extend their three-game winning streak against Tulsa and Southern Methodist University in the Prego Italian Express Invitational in Dallas, Texas. It was during this tournament that soccer pundits and Matador soccer fans alike would truly discover the character and potential of this team as they faced two of the top soccer programs in the nation within a 72-hour timeframe.

In the tournament opener, Tulsa took a 1-0 lead deep into the second half before two Matador goals quickly turned the tide of the match. Riley scored the equalizing goal off a corner kick, then less than three minutes later, Kim stole the ball from the defending goalkeeper and scored the game winner. In the match, Freshman Michaels Abalos made his first career start between the pipes, saving three shots for the win.

The momentum created in CSUN's 2-1 win over Tulsa would carry over to their next match against the host SMU Mustangs as less than 10 minutes into that game, Sims netted in his third goal of the season to give CSUN an early 1-0 lead.

In the 2nd half, the Matadors stretched the lead to 2-0 and eventually held on for a 2-1 win, securing their second straight tournament victory and fifth straight win.

The win streak however would come to an end in Fullerton. CSUN took on the Denver Pioneers and Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the Big West Challenge.

The Matadors battled the Pioneers to a scoreless tie in the opener but fell to the Chanticleers 2-1 two days later. Abalos made his third straight start for Northridge and earned his first career shutout against Denver, saving six shots with Milan Radovic picked up his first goal of the season in the loss to Coastal Carolina.

It was the first defeat suffered by the team in nearly a month; however disappointed the Matadors were about the results earned by the team in Fullerton, everyone in the program saw the amount of potential the squad possessed, and soon shifted their focus and efforts towards their conference opponents.

The road to a Big West Championship would start at UC Riverside, the site of the first in-conference match for the Matadors.

The Highlanders played CSUN tough throughout the first half, as the score remained scoreless heading into the half. In the second half however, both teams would light up the scoreboard but fortunately for CSUN, three of the four goals would come on their side. Kim started the scoring barrage for his third goal. After Riverside evened the match at 1-1, Riley put CSUN ahead for good with a score off a free kick, and then Joe Franco picked up his first goal of the season only minutes later for the Matadors' first conference victory.

Following the victory in Riverside, the Matadors began a difficult stretch of games where they dropped a non-conference game at New Mexico 2-0 before losing two straight matches to conference opponents Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine.

Although the Matadors scored first in their match at Fullerton, they would fall 2-1 in overtime. The Titans would become the first team to comeback against CSUN this season in the match.

Northridge returned home but did not find much success in their game with UC Irvine, as the Anteaters earned a 3-0 shutout victory, handing CSUN its first home loss.

Things would not get any easier for the Matadors as they welcomed in the #3-ranked UC Santa Barbara Gauchos to Matador Field.

With only two losses overall and a 4-0 in-conference record coming in, the Gauchos looked to push CSUN closer to playoff elimination. Undeterred, the Matadors battled UCSB to a standstill throughout the first half. Finally in the 77th, minute, Pate headed in a huge goal that put his team ahead 1-0, marking the first time the Gauchos have been scored upon in Big West play. The Gauchos simply did not have an answer to the Northridge defense, as they were held scoreless for the entire match, losing to CSUN 1-0.

Unfortunately, the Matadors could not build upon their impressive win over UCSB in their next series of matches, as they were only able to secure one point in their next three games.

UC Davis battled them to a scoreless tie at Matador Field then Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara each picked up victories by the scores of 3-1 and 2-0 respectively.

The Matadors did outshoot their opponents in two of the three contests and only lost by a 10-9 margin in the UCSB match. The lone score of the stretch came off the head of Sims, who picked up his team leading fifth score of the season at Cal Poly.

Sitting at a 2-4-1 Big West Conference record, the Matadors needed desperately to win their final three games to have any chance at a playoff berth; UC Riverside presented the first challenge for the Matadors as their opponents from the Inland Empire were looking to upset the Matadors on their own pitch and avenge the loss suffered in the first conference game of their respective season.

With CSUN's season and playoff hopes on the line, the team resoundingly defeated the Highlanders thanks to three second-half goals for a 4-1 victory.

Pate and Sims scored their third and sixth goals respectively, while Chad Borak and Daniel Yoon each picked up their first.

For the first time this decade, a Matador racked up three assists in one game at Mattias Bonvehi earned points on three of the four goals scored in one of the strongest individual performances ever assembled by any Matador on the season.

In the final home game of the season, all ten Matador seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony that highlighted each of their respective careers. Not only did the final home game against Cal State Fullerton have an additional level of importance attached to the afternoon with the ten seniors being honored, but also each team entered the match-up tied with one another in the Big West standings.

A win for one team would nearly wrap-up the fourth and final available position in the Big West postseason tournament for one team while a loss would severely injure the chances of the other.

It was only fitting that the two teams would need an extra overtime period considering the magnitude of the match, as neither was able to score a goal during the first 90 minutes of play.

As exciting and competitive as the first 90 minutes of action were, the initial moments of the first overtime session were just as exciting as the partisan crowd did everything they could to help will their team to victory.

After the Matadors forced a Titan turnover only minutes into overtime, Yuval Barak led the charge for the first potential CSUN scoring opportunity during the extra session. After kicking a pass to Rafael Garcia who initially raced down the sideline towards the goal Garcia found a wide-open teammate in Sims streaking towards the left-hand side of the goal and set up the pass that would eventually find the back of the net as Sims delivered from point-blank range to earn another win in dramatic fashion.

The win gave the Matadors the inside edge to the fourth seed of the Big West Tournament as they were the only team that had the power to control their own postseason destiny.

All the Matadors needed to do was win or tie UC Irvine in the final regular season game of the season to secure the final postseason tournament spot.

The Matadors did not waste time in their match against the #20-ranked Anteaters as Deldo scored his first goal of the season only three minutes into the game to give his squad an early lead.

Eight minutes later, Kim scored his fourth goal to double their advantage, only to extend that lead in the 20th minute when Deldo scored his second goal of the game

After missing the entire 2008 season due to an injury, it was Deldo who not only provided a storybook ending for himself, but for his team as well as his two-goal performance were enough to keep the Anteaters at bay for the rest of the game as the Matadors left Irvine with an impressive 3-0 postseason-tournament clinching road victory.

An old familiar rival awaited in the opening round of the tournament as the #4-ranked Gauchos hosted the Matadors in Santa Barbara. The two split their season series, and the start of the rubber match proved to be just as competitive as the teams were nearly even in the game in every statistical category but one.

After a spirited 90 played by both teams, CSUN finished the game with a 13-12 advantage in shots with the Gauchos possessing an 8-6 lead in shots on the goal.

However, it was the total number of goals scored in the game that proved to be the only numbers that matter as the host Gauchos goal scored in the 71st minute proved to be the difference. In the match Abalos played a fantastic game at net, saving seven shots potential shots that kept the game scoreless for two-thirds of the game.

Despite falling short in the Big West Tournament, the Matadors had a successful 2009 campaign, which reflected in Coach Davila and six different Matadors receiving postseason accolades.

For his efforts in leading the Matadors to a playoff berth, Davila was named Big West Conference Head Coach of the Year, the fourth time Davila has won the award and first since 2005.

Sims, Kim and Borak each end their respective collegiate careers with their well-deserved spots on the All-Big West Conference First Team.

After transferring from Mt. San Antonio College, Sims had a fantastic two-year run at CSUN as a mainstay in the starting line-up thanks to his collective 12 goals scored. Sins finished the 2009 campaign as the team's leading scorer with seven shots finding the back of the net throughout the season, including three game-winning goals.

Kim finishes an amazing Matador career with his fourth consecutive all-league selection. After initially joining the team as a walk-on, Kim began his career earning second team and honorable mention honors in his first two years, followed by first team accolades in his final two seasons as a Matador. Kim career totals include 19 goals, 19 assists and 57 points, with four goals and seven assists coming this season. His 19 career assists is tied for tenth all-time in school history as the midfielder finishes the season as the only senior in the entire Big West Conference to earn all-conference accolades every season.

After being named to the honorable mention team last season, Borak caps off a brilliant career as a Matador having earned first team honors this season. A key member of the Matador backline responsible for seven shutouts on the season in addition to his game-winning goal earned against UC Riverside.

In addition to the three first team selections, three Matadors, Riley, Abalos, and Rene Anguiano were named to the Big West Conference Honorable Mention team.

Riley scored three goals this season to go along with two assists for eight total points, as he appeared in all but one game on the season. His three goals tied him with Pate for the third-highest mark on the team.

Abalos had an impressive freshman campaign at net for Matadors, providing stellar defense, as he took over the position previously occupied by one of the most decorated goalkeepers in Matadors history, Kevin Guppy. Abalos quickly made a name for himself this season, starting in 16 games, winning seven times while totaling five shutouts. He also racked up 60 saves and had a 1.17 goals against average.

In just his first season, Anguiano finished second on the team in assists with five, as he appeared in 19 matches, starting in 16 of them.

While the ending of the 2009 campaign was not desired, the season as a whole gave Matador soccer fans plenty of hope and excitement for the upcoming season. Although ten Matador seniors will graduate this Spring, the Matadors have a wealth of talent on their roster that will utilize the experience learned this season in order to benefit them next season as they challenger for another Big West Conference crown.

Written by CSUN Media Relations Intern Nick Bocanegra