Men’s soccer scores first Big West win at home against UC San Diego

Bryan Hernandez, Reporter

Entering their second home game on a high note from their hard fought draw last Wednesday, CSUN faced off against Big West Conference opponent University of California, San Diego on Saturday night.

It was never going to be an easy Big West match, but the Matadors were fortunate enough to rise to the occasion by overcoming a tough Triton side 1-0.

CSUN redshirt freshman Marcos Delgado, 17, moves the ball downfield against UCSD in Northridge, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (Christopher Riscen)

Throughout 90 minutes of the game, CSUN frustrated UCSD. They flooded the midfield with five players, making their formation look like a 4-5-1 defending and 4-2-3-1 in attack. Formations usually position players and how they’ll play along the pitch. Using a 4-5-1 would take a more defensive approach, while a 4-2-3-1 gives players the ability to fluidly pass forward in a triangle formation.

UCSD was unable to find spaces through the center of the pitch and were forced to play wide. Throughout the match, the Tritons sent long balls towards their forwards in hopes that their attacking players could break CSUN’s backline.

From the sidelines, shouts to pressure and cover could be heard from the Matador bench.

With under a minute left in the first half, CSUN kept the ball in UCSD territory. Then out of thin air, midfielder Maximillian Yanakaev recovered the ball and sent a cross outside the penalty area toward defender Esteban Camacho, who then sent a low cross to forward Thomas Mascaro. After receiving the ball, Mascaro composed himself and shot on the turn at Triton goalkeeper Dominic Peters’ right side. Mascaro’s shot dipped low just enough to give Matadors a 1-0 lead.

“They wanted us to shoot. We get the ball there, but we don’t shoot enough,” Mascaro said. “It’s helpful if we just take shots that can be taken. That’s kind of what happened — we just took a shot and we scored.”

CSUN shot nine times, including four times on target, as the away side shot eight times and had the same shots on target.

The Matadors did the dirty work as well. They fouled UCSD 15 times and received four yellow cards, while the Tritons fouled 13 times and received one yellow card.

Defenders Omar Grey and Marcos Delgado were a pair of solid rocks in Matador’s backline with a combined five slide tackles, completely eliminating any UCSD threat at goal.

“It’s basically everyone communicating — making sure if you see something going on you make sure you let your other teammates know what’s going on behind you, in front of you,” Delgado said. “It’s all about communication. Also it’s lifting each other up even if you made a mistake. It’s making sure everyone is up to date.”

What didn’t work for CSUN — which they later adjusted in the second half — was having their fullbacks press high up the pitch. In the fifth minute, UCSD had a chance to score from a counterattack that led to a one-on-one situation between Triton forward Nick Cirrito and CSUN goalkeeper David Preys.

Most goalkeepers tend to rush out of goal as the last line of defense, but Preys held his ground and blocked the shot with a one-handed save that sent the ball over his net for a corner kick.

Between the goalposts, Preys’ spectacular performance earned himself four key saves and a clean sheet.

The closest opportunity the Tritons came to tie the match was in the 78th minute off an error from the CSUN goalkeeper, as the ball came loose from a routine stop on the ground. UCSD forward Max Carvalho and Preys both went toward the ball, and for a second Carvalho converted on the mistake until the referee signaled a foul in favor of the Matadors.

After Saturday’s win, the Matadors are now 1-2-1 in the Big West Conference.

CSUN takes on University of California, Riverside on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“Win Big West. That’s the goal,” Delgado said.