The Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team is arguably the hottest team in the Far West region.
Having gone into the Prego Italian Express Invitational in Dallas, Texas over the weekend, the Matadors wrapped up their second consecutive tournament crown after defeating host Southern Methodist University, 2-1.
The win extended Northridge’s (5-1-0) winning streak to five and skyrocketed the Matadors into the NCAA Far West poll released Monday, ranking them fourth.
The Matadors are in the midst of a seven game stretch on the road, and proved they could perform far from Matador Field in hostile territory. Third-year sophomore Rafael Garcia was involved in both goals for his team, as he recorded his first assist of the game with a pass to forward Cameron Sims in the seventh minute of play. It marked Sims’ third goal on the season.
After being awarded a free kick, Garcia placed the ball on the head of defender Dylan Riley in the 68th minute – his second goal on the year and Garcia’s second assist of the match.
After being crowned co-champions of the Matador Invitational two Sundays ago, Sims was named Big West Conference Player of the Week, and after the trip to Dallas, Riley, a senior, was himself named the conference’s player of the week in addition to being named tournament MVP.
Riley has been a source of excellent defense on Northridge’s backline, but this weekend it was his offense that shined brightest. He also scored in Friday’s come-from-behind victory against Tulsa.
Like in the Matador Invitational, several Matadors were named to the All-Tournament team in Dallas, led by Riley and Garcia. Sims was also named to the team along with defender Chad Borak.
Also of note, freshman goalie Michael Abalos made his second consecutive start in the net and nearly recorded a shutout. But the Mustangs made the game respectable when they scored their lone goal in the 77th minute of play. CSUN was playing a man down a minute before when senior midfielder Ruben Rodriguez was given a red card and ejected. Abalos, a Santa Margarita Catholic High product, finished the match with six saves. For the first time on the season, the Matadors were out-shot by an opponent, 15-12.
The match was overly physical, indeed, as there were six yellow cards issued in the match. Garcia and freshman Rene Anguiano will carry yellow cards into their next game against Denver in the Big West Challenge at Fullerton beginning Friday and concluding Sunday. The match will be Northridge’s third consecutive road game.