NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The Cal State Northridge Matadors (6-3-0) continued their impressive run of form, shutting out the Air Force Falcons (3-5-1) 2-0 on Saturday night at Matador Soccer Field. The Matadors earned their second clean sheet of the week and third in the last four matches as the team has now won four in a row for the first time since 2009.
Northridge forward Sagi Lev-Ari scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season to give the Matadors an early lead, a figure that also leads the Big West Conference and ranks second among all goal scorers in NCAA Division I. In the 15th minute of play, the Matadors drew a foul just outside of the box to set up a chance for Lev-Ari.
On the restart, midfielder David Turcios played a short touch to Lev-Ari. The sophomore then fired a left-footed shot that went through the wall of defenders, ricocheting in for the goal.
The Matadors took a 1-0 lead into halftime despite trailing at the time in shots (7-6), shots on goal (3-2) and corner kicks (5-2). The Northridge defense clamped down after Lev-Ari's goal and goalkeeper Michael Abalos made three saves to keep CSUN ahead at the break.
The second half proved to be more physical than the first as 17 fouls were called in addition to three yellow cards being shown. Air Force midfielder Kevin Durr was cautioned in the 56th minute after committing a foul and the Falcons' bench was given a yellow card less than a minute later.
Northridge defender Yuval Barak was also booked after a foul in the 64th minute. From then on, the CSUN defense continued to disrupt the Air Force attack and did not concede a shot on goal the entire second half.
Forward Edwin Rivas doubled the CSUN lead in the 81st minute during a counter attack. After a well-timed challenge by the Northridge defense, Carlos Benavides played a ball forward that landed beyond the Air Force defenders and went to the feet of Rivas.
Rivas drove the left side of the field into the box and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Matt Underwood into the near side of the goal for his fifth of the year.
With the win in goal, Abalos is now tied for fourth on the all-time career list at Northridge with 21 and also has 16 career shutouts. With nine goals in 2012 thus far, Lev-Ari has compiled the highest goal total for a Northridge player since Willie Sims netted 16 during the 2004 campaign.
Cal State Northridge has also won six non-conference matches for the first time in the same season since the 2003 team went 7-1-1 outside of league play. Northridge will open up its 2012 Big West Conference season at Matador Soccer Field on Friday, Sept. 28 against the UC Davis Aggies at 7 p.m.