Having split its first two matches of the season, the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer squad is set to host a four-team tournament at Matador Field beginning Friday.
The Matador Challenge will feature two out-of-state schools in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Fairleigh Dickinson (NJ) University, in addition to fellow Big West Conference member Cal State Fullerton.
A season ago it was the Matadors who traveled to Wisconsin for a two-game stint – in which they were defeated by the then-21st ranked Badgers of Wisconsin 2-0 and UW-Milwaukee 1-0 in brutally cold and icy conditions. The Matadors out-shot the Badgers and Panthers by a combined 37 to 22, but were still held scoreless.
The Matadors will look to build on last Sunday’s 1-0 shutout of Loyola Marymount University at home and issue a little payback to the Panthers, sunny Southern California style.
The tournament will get underway with Fullerton playing Milwaukee in the 1:30 p.m. match, followed at 4:30 p.m. by the Matadors and Fairleigh Dickinson match. The tournament concludes on Sunday with Fullerton and Fairleigh Dickinson at 11 a.m. and the revenge match between CSUN and Milwaukee at 1:30 p.m.
The Titans of Fullerton are coming off a dismal 2008 season, in which they finished 5-14-1 and next to last in the Big West with a 2-7-1 record. The Matadors swept the Titans twice by defeating them 3-2.
Milwaukee also struggled last season at 4-10-5, with only one win in conference play. The opponent to watch is Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights had an impressive 13-6-2 record in 2008 and finished as champs of the Northeast Conference. And as far as impressive goes, the Matador defense will need to look no further than Knights’ senior Samson Malijani. The forward scored a remarkable 18 goals a season ago, and has been named to both the Hermann Trophy watch-list and Preseason First Team All-American.
The Matadors’ defense has already shut down one Hermann Trophy candidate in LMU forward Rafael Baca, and will look to limit the space Malijani has to operate with the ball – either in open-field or close to the box.
CSUN has outshot its first two opponents by a combined 30 to 19 and taken six more corner kicks in the early season, so there is no reason to believe the Matadors will not continue to bombard opposing goalkeepers.
CSUN coach Terry Davila appears to be settling on a consistent starting 11 and substitution rotation, with forwards Cameron Sims and Devin Deldo leading the attack and midfielders Rafael Garcia and Sunghyun Kim facilitating the middle attack. Davila used Robert Pate and Milan Radovic off the bench to add size up front and called on Moy Gomez as a sparkplug in the first half of the LMU game.
Redshirt sophomore Brandon Ibarra has all but nailed down the spot as starting goalie, and the job appears his to lose. After shutting out the Lions in the home-opener, Davila compared Ibarra to a dominating pitcher that the team will ride until he cools off.