The Matadors kept their Big West Conference title hopes alive by securing a 4-1 victory over the Cal Poly Mustangs in the opening game of the Big West Conference Tournament on Tuesday at Matador Soccer Field.
Junior forward Sagi Lev-Ari tallied his 12th goal of the season just 37 seconds into the match thanks to a well timed pass from junior forward Edwin Rivas.
“Cal Poly commits a lot of numbers forward, they get a lot of possession but they leave themselves very vulnerable in the back and we took advantage of that, we took what they gave us and I’m very impressed with that,” said head coach Terry Davila.
Northridge started the game with well scoring on its first attempt on net.
Although the match was a battle for ball control, the Matadors dictated the pace by spreading the ball with well timed passes.
When Cal Poly did possess the ball, CSUN’s defense was committed to congesting the middle of the field, forcing the Mustangs to attack from out wide.
Cal Poly got its breakthrough in the 31st minute after defender Kip Colvey dribbled his way through the Matador midfield and blasted a shot that deflected off a Matador defender and into the back of the net.
“They’re a great team and we have to give them their credit,” said senior forward Brian Behrad. “They’re a really strong team, very disciplined and they came out very strong.”
As time was winding down in the first half, the Mustangs had an excellent opportunity to take the lead off a point-blank chance, but sophomore goalkeeper Adam Hobbs was able to deflect the ball out of bounds.
In the last minute, Behrad made a strong run down the left flank and was tripped up inside the box leading to a Northridge penalty kick.
Behrad converted the penalty, beating Mustang goalkeeper Wade Hamilton to his left and giving the Matadors a late 2-1 lead heading into halftime.
“It’s amazing, that’s the best thing that could happen to a soccer team, (scoring a late goal), it’s what we needed to put ourselves on top instead of having to chase the game and it just gives us confidence,” said Behrad.
Rather than sinking into a defensive shell with the lead, Northridge came out in the second half firing on all cylinders.
In the first minute of the half, Rivas had a 1-on-1 chance to take the lead but was denied by Hamilton.
Cal Poly seemed content with their trap, forcing the Matadors to go offsides on numerous occasions.
“We just had to get more precise on our through balls and have better timing on our runs,” said Davila. “We got caught offsides a little bit and some of our long balls were short but we got a little more precise and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Eventually, the Matadors figured out how to beat the trap and blew the game open.
Junior defender Mynor Giron sprung Lev-Ari with a well timed, long cross and Lev-Ari was able to bury a rocket shot past Hamilton to give the Matadors a two goal lead.
Nine minutes later, freshman midfielder Nicolas Camacho sealed the win for CSUN.
After Behrad’s initial bid was blocked by Hamilton, Camacho was able to find the loose rebound and blast it into the gaping net.
This victory marks Davila’s 150th career win at Northridge, giving the Matadors an extra bit of confidence heading into their second game of the tournament on Friday against UCSB.
“We kind of went into a little slump but we showed the real Northridge today,” said Behrad. “I want to give a big congrats to Terry, a 150 wins that’s amazing. That shows the winning organization that we play for and today was just a reflection of it.”