If the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer squad (6-2-1) wants to jump back into the top 25 nationally and be regarded with high respect in the NCAA field, Saturday’s match at New Mexico (5-3-0) versus the Lobos is exactly the sort of intersectional match that it needs to win.
The Matadors fell out of the National Soccer Coaches of America top 25 poll after being ranked 24th for about a week. CSUN went winless in last week’s Big West Challenge, but Wednesday night the Matadors were able to bounce back in their Big West opener with a 3-1 victory over UC Riverside.
Northridge and New Mexico have had a heated rivalry the last number of years, with Northridge getting the worst of it the last four matches. The Matadors are 0-6 in Albuquerque.
The rivalry hit an all-time high when the Lobos eliminated the Matadors in the NCAA’s round of 16 in Albuquerque in 2005, 1-0 in overtime. Both teams have their sights on a postseason appearance this season, and have proved themselves against top talent.
CSUN has already defeated Tulsa, Southern Methodist and Loyola Marymount, while UNM defeated No. 7 Cal and Notre Dame and has won four out of its last five games. The Lobos currently rank sixth in the NSCAA’s Far West poll and Northridge eighth. Both squads still rank in the top 50 schools.
The Lobos are led by senior Justin Davis. The forward leads his team with four goals and is tied for second with two assists. He has started all eight games. But so far in the season, the Lobos have been vulnerable to giving up scores, as they average over a goal allowed per match. On defense they have recorded two shutouts.
Northridge has been more than solid defensively, but its offense needs to assert itself early and not rely on playing catch-up. Going down 1-0 early was not a problem against Tulsa, but it caught up to Coach Terry Davila’s team in their match against Coastal Carolina.
The Matadors went down 2-0 for the first time since their season opener at San Diego – where they lost by that score. The offense has struggled to score in the first half of games, scoring only once in the first 45 minutes.
The team will be in hostile territory in Albuquerque and cannot afford to fall behind early. The last match between the two came in 2007 at Matador Field, with New Mexico clobbering the Matadors 3-0.
Saturday’s match will be the Matadors’ sixth consecutive road game out of seven.