With more than half of the CSUN offense out with injuries, a defender stepped up and fired away. A fortunate deflection did the rest.
Senior Bo Miller’s first-half shot from about 40 yards out hit a UC Riverside defender, changed directions and ended up in the back of Highlander goalkeeper Ryan Schmitz’s net. That was all the scoring Northridge needed Sunday at Matador Soccer field, a day where the team lost yet another forward to the injury bug, but won its first Big West Conference game 1-0.
‘(Both teams) missed opportunities,’ said CSUN Head Coach Terry Davila. ‘We got one in, they didn’t. Those who don’t score watch the other team score.’
Forward Moy Gomez, the team’s leading scorer, went down in the 12th minute of action with a leg injury and had to be helped off the field, leaving the Matadors with only Camilo Rojas as the team’s lone true attacker. A Northridge lineup that already lost forward Devin Deld’oacute; for the season and was missing Cameron Sims due to an appendectomy procedure needed to obtain its offense elsewhere, and it got it from an unlikely source seven minutes later when Miller got his first goal of the season.
‘I just wanted to take a (shot),’ said Miller. ‘Fortunately, it deflected off someone and went in. That’s what happens when you shoot.’
The game had plenty of incidences. More than once the Matadors had clear chances to add to their advantage, but they fell short every time. UC Riverside probably should have tied the game, but CSUN goalkeeper Kevin Guppy’s marvelous afternoon wouldn’t allow it. Northridge could have gotten out of the game with ‘only’ one man down heading into the next game, but instead will have three players to add to the unavailable list thanks to aggressions and ejections at the end of the game
First it was Rojas. In the 81st minute, he was punished for swinging at a Highlander player. At first, the referee didn’t catch it, but after heavy lobbying from UC Riverside Head Coach Junior Gonzalez, the official conferred with his sideline partner, who confirmed the act, and showed him a yellow card. It was Rojas’ second of the game, which meant a red card and an automatic ejection.
‘Immature mistakes. Immature decisions,’ said Davila.
But that wasn’t the end of the off-the-ball aggressions. With just less than two minutes to go and the Highlanders desperately pressing for the tie, it was the visitors’ turn to swing back. Defender Aaron Hunter delivered an elbow to Matador midfielder Jeremy Hohn’s face as they were fighting for position for an oncoming right-side free kick on CSUN’s end of the field. An angry Hohn reacted by blasting a kick to the back of Hunter’s legs, knocking him down. Players from both teams rushed to Guppy’s box in defense of their teammates, but it didn’t go beyond that. Hohn and Hunter were given red cards and the action proceeded. A few moments later, the final buzzer sounded and Northridge had escaped with a conference win.
Hohn walked off the field with a bloody face, complaining and cursing to himself.
‘(It was) just both teams trying to win, getting really aggressive,’ said Miller of the incident. ‘Sometimes things go down like that. We need to learn to stay composed, but it happens at all levels so we just got to learn from it.’
The Matadors wasted one-on-one chances in numerous occasions, some due to valiant interventions by Schmitz and some due to erroneous aim. The Highlanders had the same problem, but mostly thanks to Guppy, the star of the game in Gonzalez’s opinion.
‘I attribute the result to Guppy,’ said Gonzalez. ‘(He) is one of the best (goal)keepers in the conference and he made three or four point-blank saves inside. When you got someone that does that, it motivates the rest of your team.’
Guppy made up for his only error of the game with his greatest save as well. In the 77th minute, the goalie mistakenly kicked the ball to an opposing player, who passed to a teammate alone in the corner. The cross came right back to the Highlander and he fired a bullet right on goal. Guppy was able to come through and got a hand on the ball as his defense cleared up the danger.
With Gomez, Sims and Rojas out for Wednesday’s game at UC Santa Barbara, the Matadors will have to find a way to score and take some pressure off Guppy. The three players have combined to score eight of Northridge’s 12 goals in 2008.
‘I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,’ said a visibly-upset Davila, talking about the forward-situation. ‘I haven’t even thought about that. I just want to get this game out of our minds.’