NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Behind two goals from sophomore forward Sagi Lev-Ari, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (3-3-0) defeated the visiting Army Black Knights (2-4-0) 5-0 on Friday night at Matador Soccer Field. With five goals in the match, the Matadors put up their best offensive display in over five years and ended a three-match losing streak.
The match was physical from the outset as the two sides combined for 40 total fouls on the evening. In fact, the first four plays of the match were fouls before Carlos Benavides took the first shot for CSUN four minutes in.
Lev-Ari scored the night's first goal in the sixth minute of play on a piece of perfect teamwork to put the Matadors out front early. David Turcios passed the ball into the middle of the field to Benavides, who used a touch pass to find Lev-Ari alone on goal. The forward then chipped the ball over the Army goalkeeper for his fifth goal of the season.
"My goal is to go out there every match and help the team win," said Lev-Ari. "My teammates played me some great balls and thankfully I was able to finish."
Junior forward Beto Velasquez doubled the Northridge lead in the 34th minute of play on a similar play. Defender Yuval Barak dribbled up the left side of the pitch and sent a through ball by a group of defenders to the feet of Velasquez, whose shot rolled past the goalkeeper into the open net.
Brian Behrad added his name to the scoresheet less than five minutes later as the forward, playing in his first match of the season after breaking his arm in April, shot a ball from the right side of the box into the left side netting for his first goal of 2012. Behrad worked a give-and-go with redshirt freshman Carlos Gonzalez before finding space to get the shot off.
"It feels good to be back out on the field again," said Behrad. "I've been working on my speed and first touches in practice and I knew I had a few steps on the defender so I went for it."
In a match that also saw its fair share of cautions, Army defender Tommy Jaeger was shown the game's first yellow card in the 42nd minute and Northridge took a 3-0 lead into the halftime whistle.
Just over a minute into the second half, Michael Kim of the Black Knights picked up a yellow card for a hard challenge in Northridge's defensive third. With tensions heating up, a challenge on the other end of the pitch three minutes later saw CSUN's David Turcios earn a yellow and Jaeger being sent off for his second caution of the night.
With a man advantage, Lev-Ari led the attack for the Matadors and netted his second goal in the 55th minute. Midfielder Chris Smith played a ball into the center of the field to Benavides who flicked it on to Lev-Ari. Lev-Ari then beat the goalkeeper to the right side for his team and conference-leading sixth goal of the year.
With six goals thus far, Lev-Ari has tallied the most in a single season since Cameron Sims (7) in 2009.
Army goalkeeper Winston Boldt and CSUN forward Edwin Rivas also picked up yellow cards in the match.
Northridge goalkeeper Luis Ayala-Padilla made two saves to earn the first win and shutout of his CSUN career. Ayala-Padilla stepped in for senior Michael Abalos, who sat out as a precaution after a minor collision in practice.
The five goal display was the best for Northridge since a 6-1 win over Detroit at Matador Soccer Field on August 31, 2007. The Matadors are now 26-9 all-time in home openers.
"We played an all-around great match," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila after the game. "It was great to see guys like Smith, Behrad, and Ayala-Padilla step into important roles and produce."
Northridge continues its brief homestand on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. against the Temple Owls.