NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Two first-half goals and stout defense throughout the match led the No. 3 Cal State Northridge Matadors (7-0-0) to a 2-1 victory over the UNLV Rebels (2-4-0) on Friday evening at Matador Soccer Field. With the win, the Matadors are 7-0-0 for the first time since 1979 and are one match away from setting a new mark for the best start in program history.
"We are a strong team and have built a strong relationship together and we want to win each match," said junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari, who scored the game-winning goal. "We focus one day at a time and want to make history on Sunday."
The Matadors opened the scoring in the match with a goal on their first shot. In the eighth minute of play, Beto Velasquez slotted home his first goal of the season. Mynor Giron started the play with a pass up the left side to Edwin Rivas, who sent a ground pass to Velasquez in front of the open net at the right post. The senior forward easily punched home his shot to put CSUN ahead 1-0.
In the 35th minute, the Rebels had an excellent opportunity to level the score line, but CSUN goalkeeper Adam Hobbs made a pair of saves in quick succession on shots by Salvador Bernal and Joaquin Rivas.
Toward the end of the first half, Lev-Ari notched his eighth goal of the season. In the 41st minute, Lev-Ari stole the ball from a UNLV defender at the top of the 18-yard box and curled in a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Ryan Harding to give the Matadors a 2-0 advantage at halftime.
At the break, the Rebels led the Matadors in shots (8-7) and shots on goal (4-3). Starting the second half, UNLV controlled the tempo and was able to create opportunities against the Northridge defense.
Following a pair of corner kicks for UNLV in the first five minutes of the second half, the Rebels earned a free kick on the left side after a foul by the Matadors. Julian Portugal sent a long cross in on the set piece to the right post, where Rivas scored from point-blank distance to make the score 2-1.
The Rebels nearly tied the match in the 69th minute when Hobbs was caught off his line. Bernal found himself at the six-yard box with an open goal in front of him but rang the post. On the counter attack for the Matadors, Lev-Ari dribbled into the box and blasted a shot that hit the crossbar less than 30 seconds later.
UNLV sent waves of players forward in the final 10 minutes of the match but registered just one shot, which was blocked by a defender. The Matadors kept possession through the match's final moments to secure the victory.
The third-ranked Matadors will now turn their attention to Sunday night, when the No. 11 UCLA Bruins (3-2-1) visit Matador Soccer Field in the TopDrawerSoccer.com Game of the Week at 7 p.m. The match will be part of a CSUN Soccer Doubleheader, as the women's soccer team will face San Diego at 1 p.m.
"UCLA has raised the bar so high and everyone in college soccer has to catch up to them. We are very honored to play them and we are excited to match ourselves against one of the best programs of all-time," said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. "Sunday will be for the best team in Los Angeles. If you can't get ready for that, you can't get ready for anything. It will be the Game of Games."