NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
The No. 5 Cal State Northridge Matadors return home for their final home stand of the regular season and host a pair of South Division foes this week. Northridge is coming off of a scoreless draw at UC Riverside last week and is thankful to still have control in the Big West Conference. In order to repeat as division champions, the Matadors will need to dispel their Southern California rivals. First up is Cal State Fullerton, who tie with the Matadors at the top of the South Division standings with 10 points. Three nights later, the Matadors will host the UC Irvine Anteaters in another contest with serious postseason implications. Last season, Cal State Northridge's win at UC Irvine locked up a Big West Tournament berth for the Matadors while dealing a blow to the Anteaters, who ultimately missed out on the playoffs. Both matches this weekend will have live stats coverage and will both feature a free, Internet-only audio broadcast. All links for this week's matches can be found at GoMatadors.com.
#5 Cal State Northridge (11-2-1, 3-1-1 Big West) vs. Cal State Fullerton (6-6-1, 3-1-1 Big West)
Wednesday, Oct. 23 - 7 p.m.
Matador Soccer Field (1,900) - Northridge, Calif.
Live Stats and Audio: Link Available on Men's Soccer Schedule Page
#5 Cal State Northridge vs. UC Irvine (7-4-3, 2-2-1 Big West)
Saturday, Oct. 26 - 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.
Adding Their Names to the Record Book
With the conference schedule underway, the Cal State Northridge Matadors have already accomplished a feat that the school hadn't seen since most of the players' parents were in college. CSUN opened the season with a string of seven consecutive victories for the first, and only, time since the 1979 season. In the process, the Matadors rose through the national rankings and were the third-ranked team in Division I. The ranking marked the first time that Cal State Northridge entered the Top 5 in the school's Division I history. In addition, the Matadors defeated eight non-conference opponents for the first time in the school's DI history.
A Closer Look at Cal State Fullerton
The Cal State Fullerton Titans enter the week with a 6-6-1 overall record and are tied for first with CSUN in the Big West South Division at 3-1-1. The Titans are unbeaten in their last four matches and have only suffered one loss in their last seven, a 3-0 defeat on the road to UC Santa Barbara on October 4th. Northridge and Fullerton split the season series a year ago as the Titans finished second in the division and fell in the Big West Tournament Semifinals at UC Davis.
Ian Ramos and Garrett Losee lead the Titans with three goals and seven points through 13 matches this season. Marc Fenelus, Jaime Cano and Amara Soumah have two goals apiece for Cal State Fullerton and Spencer Johnson leads the way with four assists. As a team, the Titans average 1.38 goals per game and have combined for 15 assists on their 18 goals this season.
Goalkeeper Bryan Escalante has seen the majority of minutes for the Titans this year and is 4-5-1 in 11 games. He has recorded three shutouts and has made 52 saves in net while working toward a 1.36 goals against average. Escalante has allowed 15 goals so far this year and will likely get the start once again over Robbie Hannon, who is 2-1 in the three matches he appeared in. As a team, the Titans have been outscored by their opponents 19-18.
Following the match against the Matadors on Wednesday, the Titans will host UC Riverside on Saturday night. The Matadors and Titans will next play on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at Titan Stadium.
A Closer Look at UC Irvine
The UC Irvine Anteaters enter the week looking to climb the table in the South Division as the team is currently 7-4-3 overall and 2-2-1 in conference play. UC Irvine fought back twice against Cal State Fullerton to earn a 2-2 draw and remain just three points out of first place in the division. The Anteaters will host UC Riverside on Wednesday night before traveling to Matador Soccer Field on Saturday.
Enrique Cardenas has been doing it all for the Anteaters this season and leads the team with six goals, five assists and 17 points. He has factored into over half of the goals scored by UCI (11 out of 20) in 2013. Cameron Iwasa is another offensive threat and has five goals, three assists and 13 points while Lester Hayes III adds four goals of his own to the mix. As a team, UC Irvine averages 1.43 goals per game and has a team total of 20 assists.
Goalkeeper Michael Breslin has played every minute in net this season for the Anteaters and has recorded five shutouts. In over 1300 minutes, Breslin has made 36 saves and has allowed 15 goals for a 1.01 goals against average in 14 matches. As a team, the Anteaters are outscoring their opponents 20-15 and have only allowed the other team to take a combined total of 122 shots.
Following the match at CSUN on Saturday night, UC Irvine will open the final stretch of the year with a highly anticipated match at home against Cal State Fullerton next weekend.
The Big West Tournament Picture
All eyes turn to divisional play this week as five matches remain in Big West action. There is still plenty to be sorted out as the top three teams in the North and South Divisions are still a long way from being determined. Now that inter-division matches have concluded the standings in each division are starting to take form and the Matadors find themselves at the top of the table in the South. Although tied with Cal State Fullerton on points (10), Cal State Northridge has the upper hand thanks to its overall record of 11-2-1. With the final stretch of the regular season, the Matadors control their destiny as they look to win a second-consecutive conference championship.
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. This week, UC Santa Barbara can become the first team into the field with a win or draw against Sacramento State on Tuesday.
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 a quarter of CSUN's goal output so far this season. Through 14 matches, Behrad is second on the team with six goals and also has two 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 40 shots and is also among the team leaders with 16 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 56 points in 36 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 21 assists, tying for ninth all-time in CSUN history and ranking 10th 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 (6). A wing player for the Matadors, Velasquez was able to wear down the defense to help create chances for his teammates in front of goal. 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. For his career at CSUN, Velasquez has 12 goals, seven assists and 31 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. As a team, the Matadors have had a player record at least three points in a game nine times.
Matadors in the Big West Top Ten
In the eighth 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 (209) so far and have tallied the most points in the country (108). Through 14 matches, Northridge's 32 goals and its 2.29 goals per game average rank second in the league. The Matadors are the nation's leaders in assists (44) and assists per game (3.14). Defensively, CSUN is tied for second in the Big West with 14 goals allowed and is second with a 0.97 goals against average.
Individually, forward Sagi Lev-Ari is second in the league with 45 shots and 3.21 shots per game. Lev-Ari ties for fourth in the country with 11 goals and is second with 26 points. Brian Behrad is third in the Big West with six goals. Edwin Rivas is fifth with 40 shots and Behrad is tied for fourth in the league with 14 points. Beto Velasquez is third in the conference with six assists and has 14 points as well while Chris Smith and David Turcios tie for fourth in assists (5). Defensively, goalkeeper Adam Hobbs ranks third in the conference with a 0.94 goals against average and is second with a .783 save percentage. Stats include matches through October 20, 2013.
Cal State Northridge continues to cement its place in Top 25 polls after going 11-2-1 and starting the year with seven wins for only the second time in school history (1979). This week, the Matadors are ranked 5th by the NSCAA, 4th by College Soccer News, 13th by TopDrawerSoccer.com, and 12th by Soccer America after going earning a draw last week. CSUN is also ranked 15th in the NCAA RPI. The Soccer Times poll was unavailable at press time. 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.