The first leg of the Matador Invitational got underway on Friday, which featured two out-of-state schools and fellow Big West Conference member Cal State Fullerton.
The two-day men’s soccer tournament concluded on Sunday, but Northridge found success as the host school right off the bat, having dominated Fairleigh-Dickinson University 2-0 in the late game Friday evening.
The Knights traveled cross-country from New Jersey only to face a physical back line of Matador defenders: Joe Franco, Dylan Riley, Yuval Barak and Chad Borak combined to help goalie Brandon Ibarra record his second consecutive shutout.
All five Matadors played the entire 90 minutes.
The Matadors outshot the Knights 6-5 in the first half (21-18 overall) but went into halftime locked in a scoreless tie. Then, in the 64th minute of play, the Matadors were able to break through.
After being awarded a corner kick, Milan Radovic found forward Cameron Sims in the penalty area, where Sims’ header from about five yards out beat Knights’ goalkeeper Majdi Zaineh. But that still left over 20 minutes for CSUN to hold off a Knights’ surge.
And surge they almost did.
FDU nearly matched the amount of shots taken by CSUN in the second half, but failed to find the equalizing goal despite several corners. Rather than allow the Knights to sneak out with a draw, the Matadors put the game on ice when 6-foot-4, 190-pound Robert Pate cleaned up a scrum in front of the FDU net and ushered the ball in from about five yards out in the 81st minute. Defender Sunghyun Kim was credited with his second assist of the season.
“We run through this in practice,” Sims said, referring to the corner kick which landed him his first goal of the season. “That’s our goal. We tend to score on set pieces.”
For head coach Terry Davila, the mere fact that his players have outshot their first three opponents shows that their offense will consistently provide them with a legitimate shot at scoring.
“As a lot of coaches say, if you’re creating chances, that’s a positive,” Davila said. “If you weren’t creating chances then we would have something to worry about.”
Pate, having been a defender a year ago, was all smiles in the wake of his first goal of the season, and even more excited over his new role on the team. To take advantage of his imposing size, the senior was converted this off-season into a forward.
“A big part of me coming to college [was because] I fell in love with more of the offensive part (of) football,” Pate said. “I definitely feel that I’m a physical presence. Some guys look at me and then they will try really hard to win (ball possession) and that just frees up other players.”
Davila also praised Pate’s new role on the offensive side of the ball.
“Robert Pate is a forward – that’s his dream,” Davila said. “He’s a big-time player.”
In the early game on Friday Cal State Fullerton defeated UW-Milwaukee, 2-1.
CSUN played again on Sunday, but the result took place too late for this edition. Look for a report on Tuesday.