Oct. 5, 2008
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Bo Miller’s shot proved to be all the offense the Matadors needed against the UC Riverside Highlanders as the men in red opened up conference action with a 1-0 victory.
Taken near the midfield circle, Miller’s shot deflected off the foot of a Highlander defender, making it impossible for Highlander goalkeeper Ryan Schmitz to make the split-second shift in direction needed to prevent the ball from reaching the back of the net.
“The ball sprayed out from the box and I saw an opportunity to take a shot, so I hit it and luckily it deflected. I guess if you shoot you get goals,” stated Miller after the game.
The goal was scored at the 26-minute mark of the first half, the first for Miller this season.
Six minutes later, Camilo Rojas had an opportunity to extend the Matador lead, as he broke through the Highlander defense and was faced with a one-on-one situation against Schmitz.
Rojas deftly faked-out a quickly-approaching Schmitz just outside of the penalty box, but also took himself out of the play as well as he was unable to secure control of the ball and place a shot on the empty net.
Highlander forward Cesar Diaz nearly tied the game at one apiece just before the half as he nearly converted on a breakaway scoring opportunity of his own.
Diaz also took his opposing goalkeeper out of the play with some fancy footwork before taking a shot that was blocked by a diving Kevin Guppy. By recovering his own shot on the play, Diaz was rewarded with an empty net until Guppy regained his footing and returned to position.
Unbeknownst to Diaz, Matador defender Robert Pate was trailing the play, wisely ran in front of the Matador goal, and became the de facto goalkeeper for the moment.
Not only did Pate block the shot by Diaz, but he also cleared the ball out of the scoring area, giving Matador net-minder Kevin Guppy enough time to get to his feet and return to position to make yet another outstanding save, and preserve the one-goal lead.
After the first 45 minutes of game time, the Matadors would enter the locker room with an 8-3 advantage in total shots taken, but more importantly a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
While nobody knows exactly what was said in the locker room at halftime, Highlander Head Coach Junior Gonzalez was able to get his team to play more aggressively throughout the second half as they wasted no time in attacking the Matadors on defense; a mind-set that was carried out throughout the entire half.
The Matadors responded to the newfound Highlander intensity by taking advantage of an overaggressive opposition that was ripe for a quick counterattack throughout the second 45-minute session as they also looked to light up the scoreboard en route to their first conference victory.
But it wasn’t until the last part of the game when the energy and intensity displayed by both sides would reach a crescendo.
With just under ten minutes left in the game, the Matadors were tackled inside the penalty box on a scoring opportunity, and were awarded a penalty kick, their first of the season.
Instead of making it near-impossible for the Highlanders to come back and win, let alone tie the game, Schmitz made his most clutch save of the game as he swatted away Pate’s penalty kick, and preserved the Highlanders chance to score the equalizing goal.
The Matadors were then forced to play with one less man on the field as forward Camilo Rojas earned his second yellow card of the game, earning a red card in the process for his aggressive play on defense.
Instead of trying to add to their one-goal cushion, the Matadors shifted their focus and created a more defensive-minded game plan.
Thanks to a couple of diving saves by Guppy, the Matadors were able to neutralize a Highlander offense that was determined to break through and score before the end of the game.
As the Highlanders were preparing to take their final corner kick, in what would eventually end up being their final scoring opportunity of the game, Highlander defenseman Joel Crompton and Matador midfielder Jeremy Hohn became entangled with one another. Jockeying for position in front of the Matador net, both earned a red card for their actions while trying too aggressively to free themselves from one another.
Unable to regain their poise from the double-ejection, the Highlanders failed to capitalize on their opportunity, as the Matadors wasted the final moments of the game and secured their first conference victory.
The win improved the Matadors record to 5-4-1 on the season.
Even though his team earned their first conference victory of the season, Matadors Head Coach Terry Davila felt his team could have performed even better.
“We’re not happy with the way we played but a lot of it had to do with Riverside,” stated Davila. “They forced a lot of turnovers, and played their game very well. Today’s game was more about the way Riverside played, not the way we played.”
The victory ensures the Matadors a home near the top of the Big West standings going into their next game on Wednesday at UC Santa Barbara.
“It’s always good to get a ‘w’ in conference, but we need to learn from this and stay more composed at the end,” echoed Miller. “We need to put away goals and put them away early so it’s not a game at the end. A win is a win but you got to learn from it.”
The Matadors find themselves on the road for their next two games, first up is a trip to Harder Stadium to face the nationally ranked, and defending Big West champions UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, October 8. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.