After the Cal State Northridge men’s soccer team’s lopsided 4-1 victory Saturday at Matador Field, CSUN coach Terry Davila and his players called their first game of this critical two-game homestand a do-or-die situation.
The Matadors’ (8-7-2) third win in Big West Conference play now pulls them into a three-way tie with Cal State Fullerton and UC Davis at 10 points. Davis, however, is at a disadvantage, with one more loss than both the Matadors and Titans. At 3-4-1, Fullerton comes to Northridge Wednesday, on Senior Day, for what will quite possibly be the determining match over who solidifies the fourth spot.
“It’s for all the marbles,” Davila said. “We know that, Fullerton knows that. There is no secrets out there … whoever wins this game is going to go to the Big West playoffs.
He went on to compare Saturday’s win to that of a first playoff victory and Wednesday’s as a second playoff-caliber match.
Saturday’s bombardment of a lowly 1-14-1 UC Riverside team was step one for CSUN’s qualifying opportunity. The Matadors scored a rare first-half goal off Robert Pate’s third goal of the season following a corner kick from third-year sophomore forward Mattias Bonvehi. Pate, a senior, headed-in a rebound that came to him inside the box after the ball hit the crossbar in the 21st minute.
But the Highlanders stole some of the momentum as the first 45 came to a close. Joel Garcia blasted a kick from about 40 yards deep and beat freshman goalkeeper Michael Abalos, as the ball hit the bottom half of the crossbar and bounced down but slightly inside the goal line to take a 1-1 tie into the half.
By the time the second 45 got under way, the match was all Northridge, as it out-shot Riverside 11-8 and 21-12 overall. In a span of about 12 minutes, CSUN sliced the Highlanders’ defense for three consecutive goals – the last two coming off superb crosses from Bonvehi and midfielder Sunghyun Kim setting up senior forward Cameron Sims’ team-leading sixth goal (66th minute) and sophomore midfielder Daniel Yoon’s (58th minute) first of the season.
Bonvehi came off the bench and gave the CSUN offense a spark, finishing the game with three assists. His performance helped give Northridge a much-needed three points, and broke a three-game winless streak.
“It was all for one and one for all,” said Yoon, regarding the team’s mind-set going into Saturday’s match. “We couldn’t lose, this [was] it. This is our first playoff game, we all went in together and I’m glad we all came out with a win.”
Senior defender and one of two team captains, Chad Borak, who scored his first goal of the season in the 54th minute, says it will be his job to continue to be one of the team’s vocal leaders – especially in his last regular season home game.
“I’m going to obviously give it my all,” Borak said. “I got to be a leader in different ways. … we’re going to come out firing.”
Northridge now leads the series over Riverside, 17-1-6.