After being shut out, 2-0, at No. 4 UC Santa Barbara Wednesday night, the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team now faces a critical two-game homestand starting Saturday.
The loss keeps the Matadors tied for fifth place with UC Davis at seven points apiece, and with a mere three games remaining in Big West Conference play. Both teams are chasing Cal State Fullerton, which currently sits fourth with 10 points.
Should the season end today, both Northridge (7-7-2, 2-4-1 BW) and Davis (5-11-1, 2-5-1) would be left out of the conference’s four-team playoff, with Fullerton (7-8-2, 3-4-1) taking up the fourth seed. Saturday’s match against lowly UC Riverside, which is winless in conference, is a game that Coach Terry Davila’s squad must have to position itself to keep pace with Davis and Fullerton.
Should the Matadors beat Riverside, Wednesday’s game at Matador Field will be a possible showdown for the final playoff spot against Fullerton. The Matadors are looking to sweep the season series with the Grizzlies and payback the Titans for an overtime loss earlier in the season at Fullerton.
Wednesday night there was plenty of reason for the Santa Barbara student body to launch tortillas on the field at Harder Stadium, as it is their tradition whenever the Gauchos score a goal.
The first score came early in the 15th minute, off a Luis Silva strike from about 35 yards out. Once the Matadors went down 2-0 in the 49th minute on Waid Ibrahim’s fifth goal of the season, Northridge was faced with the daunting task of trying to come back against the conference’s top team. The Matadors are winless when trailing by two goals, and have now been shut out six times.
The Gauchos were on high upset alert, having already been shut out by Northridge at Matador Field.
The focus now shifts to the homestand, which is a virtual make-or-break stretch. To secure the fourth spot in the Big West, the Matadors are going to need at least four wins and must block Fullerton from gaining any further breathing room.
Adding to the Matadors’ critical play in the next two matches is the looming season finale at UC Irvine, which has arguably been the hottest team in conference of late.
CSUN had several shots come close to finding back of the goal but instead bounced off the crossbar or post. Despite taking nine shots to Santa Barbara’s 10, the Matadors took only one corner kick. As expected, the match was physical, with each side racking up 18 fouls. Five yellow cards were shown in all.