Saturday’s defeat at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has put a major dent in the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team’s drive for a postseason berth.
The 3-1 loss at the hands of the Mustangs now drops the Matadors (7-6-2, 2-3-1 Big West) into a tie with UC Davis for the fifth spot in the Big West Conference with seven points each, despite being ahead in the loss column. With only four conference games remaining, Northridge has few precious opportunities to position itself into one of the top four positions to qualify for the four-team playoff at season’s end.
For now, after Saturday’s action in the Big West, only Cal State Fullerton is within CSUN’s striking distance at 10 points. But to pull even with the Titans won’t be easy. The Matadors travel to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (11-3-1, 5-1) next, where the Gauchos are a team that knows how to defend their home field with a 6-1 record.
Northridge defeated then-No. 3 Santa Barbara at Matador Field, 1-0, on Oct. 18th, and will be in need for another huge performance to stay alive in the middle of the Big West pack.
At one point, Saturday, a game which CSUN Coach Terry Davila, on his message board, called the toughest loss of the year, the Matadors trailed big, 3-0. Not until the 73rd minute did they get on the board, thanks to forward Cameron Sims’ team-leading fifth goal of the season. His header was set up by midfielder Sunghyun Kim’s team-high fifth assist after being awarded a free kick from the right edge of the box.
All four goals in the match were scored in the second half and came in a flood between the 67th and 73rd minute. And for Cal Poly’s David Zamora, the goals indeed came flooding in.
The junior forward had a career day for the Mustangs, who are tied with Santa Barbara atop the Big West with 15 points, as he knocked in all three goals, one coming off a penalty kick in the 69th minute. Despite having a below 500 record overall at 7-8-1, Cal Poly has started off hot in conference play at 5-2.
The Matadors know they hold their fate in their hands, and that it will possibly take as few as four conference wins to get to fourth place. They have two winnable games at home against UC Riverside (0-5-1 BW) and Fullerton (3-3-1). The other two matches come on the road against, arguably, the cream of the crop: Wednesday night at UCSB and a regular season finale at UC Irvine (4-2).
Despite losing by two goals, Northridge out-shot Cal Poly 15-10, and took more corners at 4-1. Also of note, senior defender Chad Borak was issued a red card and will be unavailable for Wednesday’s game.
The loss could be key as Borak is one of four starters on the Northridge backline that has been rock-solid all season.