RIVERSIDE, Calif. -
Behind two goals from sophomore forward Edwin Rivas, the Cal State Northridge Matadors (12-5, 6-2 Big West) emerged with a 2-1 win over the UC Riverside Highlanders (9-7, 2-6 Big West) on Saturday night at UC Riverside Soccer Stadium. The victory clinched the Big West Conference South Division for the Matadors and guarantees a home match in the Big West Tournament Semifinals on November 7.
The two sides played to a scoreless first half with the Matadors holding a 5-2 edge in shots taken. Sagi Lev-Ari had the first shot on goal in the match, an attempt in the seventh minute that was saved by Ashkan Khosravi. Lev-Ari also had a header that went wide in the 33rd minute and finished the match with two shots.
The Highlanders had opportunities in quick succession to begin the second half but both shots missed the mark. Just over a minute in, Eric Gonzalez's shot was blocked by a defender and Ruben Valencia's header went wide of the goal.
The next chance for either side was for Rivas, who delivered to put the Matadors ahead 1-0 in the 49th minute. He dribbled the ball into the right side of the box and fired off a shot that beat the goalkeeper into the left corner from the top of the area.
"Our forwards got more determined and our passing got more precise to open our opportunities in the second half," said Northridge head coach Terry Davila. "We had great movement off the ball and that helped us get behind the defense."
Rivas came through again for Northridge with what stood up as the game-winning goal in the 67th. David Turcios played a through ball to Rivas, who then beat the Khosravi and shot the ball into the open net for his eighth goal of the season. Carlos Benavides was also credited with an assist on the play.
UC Riverside's lone score of the match came as an own goal in the 88th minute following a corner kick by Gonzalez.
"UC Riverside showed resiliency and toughness at the end of the match to get back into it," added Davila. "It was an unlucky play for us to concede the goal and we need to do better on clearing those balls out moving forward."
Senior goalkeeper Michael Abalos made one save in the match to earn his 27th career victory, good for fourth all-time at Northridge. Abalos needs one victory to create a three-way tie for second.
Northridge defender Yuval Barak was cautioned in the 89th minute while Jose Diaz was sent off with a red card for UC Riverside in the 77th. Nine different Matadors recorded a shot in the match.
The Matadors return home for their final two regular season matches against Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. Northridge will host the Titans on Halloween Night before the Anteaters come to Matador Soccer Field for Senior Night on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Big West Tournament will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 7 when the Matadors host the second-place finisher from the Big West's North Division.
"There are a lot of things to play for this last week of the regular season. We want to keep it rolling and we have pride in our game and we don't want tonight to be our best game of the year," Davila said. "We need to keep it going through the end of the year and throughout the playoffs."
More information about the Big West Men's Soccer Tournament will be published when it becomes available.