NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
With just two matches remaining on the schedule, the Cal State Northridge Matadors can control their playoff destiny with a pair of league contests this week. First, the Matadors host the No. 16 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. Then, Northridge closes out the regular season at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Nov. 5, also at 7 p.m. The match against the Gauchos will be Senior Night at Matador Soccer Field, with a pregame ceremony slated to honor the program's four seniors before kickoff. The Senior Night match will be broadcast via online radio through Stretch Internet on GoMatadors.com with Eldrick Bone and Raul Delgado making the call. Links for radio and live stats will be available on GoMatadors.com. The match at Cal State Fullerton will be simulcast on FullertonTitans.com for radio and BigWest.TV (subscription required) for video. There will not be live stats for the match against the Titans.
A Closer Look at No. 16 UC Santa Barbara
The Gauchos enter the week in fourth place in the Big West Conference standings with a league record of 4-4-0 and 12 points. They currently sit one point ahead of Northridge with two games to play and will host Cal Poly on Friday, Nov. 4 to close out their regular season.
UC Santa Barbara has been ranked nationally all season long and comes to Matador Soccer Field after defeating UC Davis and Cal State Fullerton last week to climb into the top half of the standings. The match on Tuesday will be the only time that the Matadors and Gauchos face each other in the regular season.
The Gauchos are led offensively by Luis Silva, who has tallied 13 goals and eight assists for 34 points this season and leads UCSB in each category. David Opoku ranks second in scoring with 16 points after seven goals and two assists.
Andre Grandt has played every minute in net for UC Santa Barbara this season and has compiled a record of 11-5-1 with six shutouts. He has a goals against average of 1.32 with 47 saves in 2011.
A Closer Look at Cal State Fullerton
The Titans enter the final week of competition with an overall record of 7-6-4 and a mark of 1-5-2 in Big West play. Although the Titans have been eliminated from postseason contention, the match with the Matadors will serve as their Senior Night and could be a make-or-break match for Northridge.
The Titans have gone 1-5-3 after starting the year 6-1-1 and are currently seventh in the Big West. Cal State Fullerton will face UC Davis on the road on Wednesday before hosting the Matadors in the final match of the regular season. The Titans are led on offense by Kevin Venegas, who has scored six goals and has four assists for 16 points in 16 matches this season. Oscar Aguero has 10 points of his own after four goals and two assists in 2011.
Trevor Whiddon has seen the majority of the action in net this year for the Titans and has a record of 7-6-4 with six shutouts. Whiddon has collected 73 saves on the season and has a 1.35 goals against average. The last time these two teams faced off, the Matadors came away with a 3-0 victory on Oct. 1.
Results from Last Week
The Matadors earned two critical points in the Big West standings last week after earning a pair of scoreless draws. On Wednesday night, the Matadors recorded a shutout against nationally-ranked UC Irvine and kept Cal Poly off the board on Saturday. Although Northridge picked up two points, the team fell to fifth in the conference and just outside playoff contention with one week to play. The Matadors control their destiny in the Big West, however, as two wins in the final two matches will secure a berth in the conference tournament.
On Wednesday against the Anteaters, the Matadors outshot UC Irvine 17-16 but only recorded two shots on goal. Goalkeeper Michael Abalos made six saves in the match to earn his sixth shutout of the season and give UC Irvine its first draw of the year.
Against Cal Poly on Saturday, the Matadors again held the edge in shots (17-14) and this time had more shots on goal (4-3) but neither team could find the right combination to score. Abalos recorded three saves on the night for his league-leading seventh clean sheet this season.
As the Matadors are currently in fifth place in the Big West Conference and trail UC Santa Barbara by one point, there are many ways in which they can clinch a spot in the Big West Tournament. A win against the Gauchos on Tuesday would allow the Matadors to control their own destiny as they would have 14 points and be in fourth place. With two wins this week, Northridge is guaranteed a berth and at least the fourth seed. CSUN can finish third with two wins and a loss or tie by UC Riverside against UC Davis on Saturday. If the Matadors win on Tuesday they can clinch a spot with a Cal Poly loss Tuesday to UC Irvine and a Mustang win or draw against UC Santa Barbara Friday. The Matadors are also in the postseason if they draw Tuesday, win Saturday at Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly loses or draws against UC Irvine, and Santa Barbara loses to Cal Poly Friday. Needless to say, opportunities abound and the easiest road to the playoffs is with two victories.
Rewriting the Record Books
One indication of the success goalkeeper Michael Abalos has earned so far in his career can be seen in the Matador record books as the San Juan Capistrano native earned a spot on four different lists with his numbers earned during his first two-plus seasons at Northridge. Abalos now owns eighth place with his 16 career victories, is eighth all-time with his 1.44 career goals against average, and is third all-time with his 14 career shutouts. His seven clean sheets earned so far in 2011 are also the third-highest number of shutouts earned in a season, tying him with Jeff Blumkin (1988) and Mike Caputo (1986) and their respective single-season performances. His 50 matches in goal place him third on the all-time list.
After a productive summer working with the Guatemala U-19 team, redshirt freshman Edwin Rivas is showing fans the reason that head coach Terry Davila recruited him to lead the attack. The forward out of Los Angeles has scored five goals so far this season, which put him in a tie for the team lead in that category and in a tie for second on the squad with 10 points. Rivas had arguably his most satisfying performance at No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 22, scoring the game-winning goal in the 87th minute to cap a comeback for the Matadors, who won on the road against the Bruins for the first time in school history.
No Time to Waste
Sophomore forward Thomas Ramos is leading the in scoring with 13 points through 17 matches. In 2011, Ramos has scored five goals and has recorded three assists to pace the Matadors after a freshman campaign with zero points. Two of Ramos' five goals this year have come in the first ten minutes of the match, in the fourth minute at UC Davis and the seventh minute at Cal Poly, both Northridge victories. He also scored with under 10 minutes remaining against Seattle (3-0 win) and with one minute left in the first half at No. 22 CSU Bakersfield (2-2 tie). He scored with just over four minutes to go at UC Riverside (10/19) on an assist by Christian Gonzalez Diaz and assisted on Gonzalez Diaz' score at UCLA on Oct. 22.
Sophomore midfielder Carlos Benavides has been a major part of the Northridge offense this season and is the team leader in assists with seven. Benavides recorded an assist on the only Northridge goal at New Mexico (9/11) and also earned assists at CSU Bakersfield (9/15) and against Seattle University (9/25). He put on his most impressive display, however, against Cal State Fullerton when he tallied three assists in a 3-0 victory, earning Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors in the process. On the season, Benavides is tied for third in the conference in assists and is second in assists per game (0.47) and is tied for 13th and 11th in the nation in those categories, respectively. With three assists against Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1, Benavides can also claim the second most assists in a game this season in the NCAA. NCAA stats are current as of Oct. 23.
Midfielder/defender Chris Smith has recorded 10 points in 17 matches so far in 2011, good for a tie for second on the team in scoring. The Palmdale, Calif. native is averaging 0.59 points per game and is a force in both the offensive and defensive schemes for the Matadors, and also serves as the taker of corner kicks when he is on the pitch. Smith scored Northridge's first goal of the season in the opener against Canisius when he lined up a shot from 30 yards out that curled over the goalkeeper's head and gave CSUN a 1-0 lead. He earned an assist on the only goal in CSUN's 2-1 loss to UNLV and also recorded two helpers in Northridge's 3-0 defeat of Missouri State in the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. He also headed home the Matadors' second goal in the 3-0 victory over Seattle and had an assist on Edwin Rivas' goal against UC Davis on Oct. 15. Smith currently ranks tied for sixth in the Big West in assists (6) and assists per game (0.35).
One and One is Three
A number of Matadors have put up multiple-point performances in a match this season. Sophomore Thomas Ramos had a goal and an assist in a 2-2 draw at #22 CSU Bakersfield (9/15) and again in a match against Seattle University (9/25). Against #19 Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 1, both Christian Gonzalez Diaz and Carlos Benavides tallied three points, as Gonzalez Diaz scored and had an assist and Benavides recorded three different helpers. Senior captain Rafael Garcia twice converted penalty kicks into goals at UC Davis (9/28) for the only four-point display by a Matador so far this season.
Matadors In The Big West Top-Ten
With two matches remaining in the Big West Conference season, a number of Matadors rank among their peers in the conference statistics, both offensively and defensively. Forwards Thomas Ramos and Edwin Rivas rank tied for eighth in the league with five goals and Ramos is eighth with 13 points. Midfielder Carlos Benavides is tied for third in the league in assists (7) and is second in assists per game (0.47) and senior co-captain Rafael Garcia is ninth with 2.64 shots taken per game. In net, goalkeeper Michael Abalos is third with a .760 save percentage, 1.06 goals against average, and a 3.56 saves per game average. He is also tied for first in the league with seven shutouts on the season and is the leader with 0.44 shutouts per game. Statistics are accurate as of Oct. 30.
Down, But Not Out
In the Matadors' match against No. 2 Akron on September 3, Northridge played down a man for 66 minutes due to an accumulation of yellow cards by Nicholas Hamilton. In the 25th minute of action, the Zips took advantage of the man advantage and pulled ahead with a 1-0 lead. Not to be put away, the Matadors played a more defensive game, with goalkeeper Michael Abalos recording seven saves between the time of the red card and when freshman Yarden Azulay scored to even the match on a breakaway in the 82nd minute. So far this season, the Matadors have rallied from a goal down to tie the match twice (vs. UNLV and Akron), both times after the 75th minute. Against No. 22 CSU Bakersfield on Sept. 15, the Matadors rallied from being down two goals on the road to force overtime and earn a draw. On Oct. 22 at No. 7 UCLA, the Matadors trailed 2-1 before goals by Brian Behrad (83') and Edwin Rivas (87') led Northridge to its first victory over the Bruins in Westwood and just the second win over UCLA in school history.
The New-Look Matadors
The Cal State Northridge Matadors see an influx in new talent this season as 12 players on the squad are new to the program. In addition to four transfer student-athletes, Northridge has added eight true freshmen and will also see the return of freshman Edwin Rivas and sophomore Yuval Barak, who both redshirted the 2010 season. In the season-opening win over Canisius, freshman Christian Gonzalez Diaz netted an insurance goal late in the match off of a corner kick to ensure the 2-0 victory. Rivas headed home the equalizer in the 79th minute against UNLV (9/1) and also had the game-winning score at No. 7 UCLA on Oct. 22 to give the Matadors a 3-2 come-from-behind victory, and Yarden Azulay scored in the 82nd minute to even the score against No. 2 Akron (9/3). Rivas, Gonzalez Diaz and Azulay have multiple goals for Northridge in 2011.
Quick Out of the Gates
The Matadors are 20-7-4 in conference season openers, and have only been defeated once in a Big West opener. CSUN has not lost a conference opener since 2002, when they were on the wrong side of a 2-1 decision against UC Irvine at home. The Matadors are now 8-1-2 all-time in Big West Conference openers after defeating the UC Davis Aggies 3-0 on Sept. 28. The longest streak for conference opening wins in Matador history is 10 seasons, accomplished from 1978-87 under the direction of head coaches Zvi Friedman, Ric Fonseca and Marwan Ass'ad.
Keep Your Heads on a Swivel
Last year, the Matador set their season team-highs in shots taken and shots on goal against the UC Riverside Highlanders. In the 2009 conference-opening match in Riverside, CSUN fired 30 shots at the Highlander goalkeeper, 15 of which were on goal. In 2010, the Matadors nearly matched that mark as they blasted 28 shots at the Highlander net, including ten on goal in their only contest of the season, which took place in Northridge. CSUN matched the 2010 high on Oct. 1, 2011 with a 28-shot performance at home against #19 Cal State Fullerton in a 3-0 win.
Scoring from All Positions
So far in 2011, the Matadors have seen 26 goals scored by 10 different players: Christian Gonzalez Diaz, Yarden Azulay, Edwin Rivas, Chris Smith, Gustavo Villalobos, Taylor Bowlin, Thomas Ramos, Brian Behrad, Luis Gutierrez and Rafael Garcia. Equally as impressive is that the Matadors have a total of 32 assists on those goals, with Smith (6), Villalobos (2), Ramos (3), Azulay (2) and Gonzalez Diaz (2) as the only Matadors to have a goal and a helper thus far. Midfielder Rene Anguiano (3), defenders Nicholas Hamilton (2), Joe Franco (2), Yuval Barak (1), Carlos Benavides (7), and Jose Luis Garcia (2) have each been credited with an assist. In all, the Matadors have tallied 84 points and have seen offensive production from all parts of the pitch, working the attack through a variety of positions to break down the opposition. The 84 points are third-most in the Big West.
The Friendly Confines
Of the 19 matches on the schedule this year, the Cal State Northridge Matadors will play just over half of their contests at Matador Soccer Field. Northridge will host ten games in 2011, including the Cal State Northridge Labor Day Classic, squaring off against such programs as UNLV, SMU, UC Santa Barbara and defending national champion Akron. Since relocating from North Campus Stadium to their current facility before the start of the 2002 season, Matador Soccer Field has presented a strong advantage for the Matadors. In the 86 games played on-campus, CSUN possesses an overwhelming 53-23-10 record at home for a .674 winning percentage on their home turf.
Welcome to the Century Club
With the 2-0 victory over Canisius on August 26, head coach Terry Davila became the sixth coach in Big West history to win 100 games as a member of the conference. Even though Davila entered the 2011 season with 113 career wins to his credit, the first 14 were earned as member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. In 2001 the Matadors switched conference affiliation from the MPSF to the Big West, since then Davila's teams have compiled a 104-71-33 overall record (.579 pct.). With his victory over Cal State Fullerton on Oct. 2, 2010, Davila became just the third head coach to win 50 or more Big West Conference matches.
Bring the Noise
Have a drum, cowbell, or other noisemaker lying around at home? Now is the time to bring it out and explore the space of Matador Soccer Field! The Big West Conference office announced this past summer that all noisemakers, with the exceptions of airhorns and whistles, will now be allowed at all conference matches and all home venues. As such, fans are encouraged to get into the action in a whole new way by making noise for their team during each contest. Previously, no outside noisemakers were permitted at any game and violators were subject to removal from the site. Please note that noisemakers have been approved for use at men's and women's soccer matches only, and will be confiscated in the Matadome or at any other Northridge athletics venue.
Tickets for all home men's matches are available through the CSUN Associated Students Ticket Office. Adults are $5, while youth 17 and under and seniors 60 and older are $3. There is also a $3 discounted rate ticket for CSUN Faculty/Staff, Military Service Personnel and CSUN Alumni Association Members with their respective identification cards. CSUN students receive free admission to all home games with their CSUN I.D. Groups of 10 or more people may purchase $3 tickets, but tickets must be purchased a minimum of 24 hours in advance. For more information, call the A.S. Ticket Office at 818-677-2488.