November 5, 2013

Postseason Berth Up for Grabs as No. 20 CSUN Visits Fullerton, No. 24 Irvine

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NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

The No. 20 Cal State Northridge Matadors will finish off the regular season with a pair of road matches this week as the team heads south into Orange County. Northridge will first meet Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night at Titan Stadium before battling No. 24 UC Irvine on the season's final day this Saturday night at Anteater Stadium. The Matadors are currently three points behind UCI in the standings heading into the week but control their own destiny as a pair of wins will give them a share of the division title with the final seeding for the Big West Tournament to be decided by tiebreakers. But first, CSUN must take care of business at Cal State Fullerton, the site of a wild 5-4 match that ended with the Titans on top last season. Wednesday's match in Fullerton will be broadcast for free through BigWest.TV while both matches will feature live stats coverage. Fans are encouraged to follow CSUN's official Tiwtter account (@CSUNMensSoccer) for links and updates from both matches this week.

Match #18:
#20 Cal State Northridge (12-4-1, 4-3-1) at Cal State Fullerton (6-9-1, 3-4-1)

Wednesday, Nov. 6 - 7 p.m.
Titan Stadium (10,000) - Fullerton, Calif.
Live Stats, Video, Audio: Link Available on Men's Soccer Schedule Page

Match #19:
#20 Cal State Northridge at #24 UC Irvine (10-4-3, 5-2-1)

Saturday, Nov. 9 - 7 p.m.
Anteater Stadium (2,500) - Irvine, Calif.
Live Stats:
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 final regular-season matches this week, 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 have plenty on the line this week as well, despite sitting fourth in the South Division standings. The Titans are tied with UC Riverside at 10 points with two matches to go and are looking to sew up their spot in the Big West Conference Tournament. To do so, they will need a positive result in both matches this week.

The Titans are searching for their first win since October 13th and are 0-3-1 in their last four. The last time out against CSUN, the Titans fell in overtime at Matador Soccer Field two weeks ago. Ian Ramos leads the attack with three goals, two assists and eight points and Garrett Losee is second on the team with three goals, an assist and seven points. As a team, the Titans have combined for 21 goals and 18 assists and they have not been held scoreless since a 3-0 loss at UC Santa Barbara on October 4th.

Bryan Escalante figures to be the man in net once more for the Titans on Wednesday night. Through 14 games, he is 4-8-1 with three shutouts to his credit. Escalante has recorded 60 saves and has allowed 21 goals for a 1.50 goals against average. As a team the Titans have allowed their opponents to fire off 248 shots and 93 shots on goal, resultingin 25 goals. Fullerton has a -4 goal differential in all matches this season and their last three matches have resulted in identical 2-1 defeats.

Following the match against the Matadors on Wednesday night, the Titans will travel to UC Riverside on Saturday in what could potentially decide the final seeds for the Big West Tournament.

A Closer Look at No. 24 UC Irvine

The No. 24 UC Irvine Anteaters enter the week looking to clinch their first South Division title and can do so with a pair of positive results against UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge. The Anteaters are currently three points ahead of the Matadors in the standings and will wrap up the division with a win at UCR and a CSUN loss or draw on Wednesday. Should UCI and CSUN both win, the Matadors will have a chance to earn at least a share of the title when the two sides meet in Irvine.

UCI is led on offense by Enrique Cardenas, who has six goals, five assists and 17 points this season. Cameron Iwasa is second in all three scoring categories with five goals, four assists and 14 points. The two forwards have combined for 101 of the teams 256 shots and 11 of 25 goals scored this year for the Anteaters. As a team, UC Irvine is outscoring opponents 25-16 and averages 1.47 goals per game.

Michael Breslin has been the goalkeeper for UC Irvine for all 1608 minutes thus far and has recorded seven shutouts on the year. He has allowed 16 goals and has a 0.90 goals against average in 17 matches. Collectively, UC Irvine has held the opposition to only 143 shots and 60 shots on goal and the team has not been defeated since a 2-1 loss to UC Santa Barbara on October 13th.

The Anteaters defeated the Matadors 1-0 in Northridge on October 26th, but last season CSUN left Irvine with a 2-1 win that put them in the 2012 Big West Tournament.

The Big West Tournament Picture
The final two matches of the regular season will determine the four remaining spots to be handed out for the Big West Conference Tournament. Entering the week, only UC Santa Barbara (North Division Champs) and Cal Poly have punched their tickets to the conference tournament. No team from the South Division has locked up a bid as of yet and there is a great possibility that the final seeding will be determined on the final day of the regular season this Saturday. As it sits now, UC Irvine is in first place in the South with 16 points followed by CSUN (13), UC Riverside (10) and Cal State Fullerton (10).

A win or a draw for CSUN at Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night will put the Matadors in the postseason. A win, coupled with a loss or draw for UC Irvine at UC Riverside will set up a winner-take-all situation on Saturday night. If that were to happen on Wednesday, the Matadors and Anteaters would be tied on points going into the final match and CSUN would need a win to guarantee their second-straight division title. Scenarios and schedule updates will be made available on GoMatadors.com.

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 over a quarter of CSUN's goal output so far this season. Through 17 matches, Behrad is second on the team with six goals and also has three 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.

Striking Features
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 46 shots and is also among the team leaders with 17 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 second in the Big West with 11 goals and now has 26 goals and 57 points in 39 career matches for Northridge.

Mr. Assist
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 22 assists, ranking ninth all-time in CSUN history and tying for ninth 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 (7). 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. In the overtime win against Cal State Fullerton, he scored a goal and added the game-winning assist just over a minute into the added period. For his career at CSUN, Velasquez has 13 goals, eight assists and 34 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. Beto Velasquez did it most recently with a goal and the game-winning assist in a win over Cal State Fullerton. As a team, the Matadors have had a player record at least three points in a game 10 times.

Poll Position
Cal State Northridge continues to cement its place in Top 25 polls after going 12-4-1 and starting the year with seven wins for only the second time in school history (1979). This week, the Matadors are ranked 20th by the NSCAA, 15th by College Soccer News, and are receiving votes in the poll by TopDrawerSoccer.com after dropping a match at home last week. The poll by Soccer Times was not released at the time of publishing. CSUN is also ranked 22nd in the NCAA RPI. 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.

Manufacturing Points
Entering the final week of the regular season, the Matadors have started racking up points on the offensive side of the game. Across the first two matches against Albany and Memphis, Cal State Northridge scored seven goals and tallied 10 assists while holding the opposition to just one goal and one assist. Fourteen different Matadors have recorded at least one point already this year, led by Sagi Lev-Ari with a robust 27. Brian Behrad (six goals, three assists) has 15 and Beto Velasquez (five goals, seven assists) is also among the team leaders with 17 points. Chris Smith (11) and Yarden Azulay (8) also find themselves on the scoresheet while Pol Schonofer Bartra scored the first CSUN goal this season and has two points. Edwin Rivas (9), Steven Manios (4), David Turcios (9), Carlos Benavides (4), Juan Samayoa (3), Mynor Giron (4), Tanner Snedigar (2) and Trevor Morley (1) round out the list of point scorers for Northridge.