Matadors men’s soccer’s undefeated start ended by Utah Valley

Michael Arrington, 12, attempts to head the ball away from his team’s goal in a game against Utah Valley University in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2022.

Justin Parrott, Reporter

The Matadors lost their first game of the season as students returned to campus, snapping their two-game winning streak with a 2-0 loss to Utah Valley University.

Looking to secure their fourth win of the season, CSUN men’s soccer (3-1-1) attacked from the get-go on the 90-degree Friday night. The Matadors applied pressure early against Utah Valley (2-1-1), but conceded two goals in the second half and were unable to recover.

The Matadors began the game on the right track, playing fast-paced early on. Sophomore forward Jamar Ricketts took control from the start, firing two shots at the goal. Freshman midfielder Sahar Ohayon also took a shot that went left of the goal.

The Matadors continued to take multiple shots in the first half, which gave them many scoring opportunities. With 15 minutes left in the first half, sophomore forward Marley Edwards took the ball up the field and launched it at the goal. To Edwards’ dismay, his shot went right to Utah Valley goalie Jason Smith, hitting him right in the hands.

CSUN had one shot on goal to the Wolverines’ zero, giving the Matadors the upper hand in the first half.

“In that first half we had a lot of chances, with a few clear-cut shots in there,” said junior forward Jack Rhead. “We weren’t able to finish them. We need to get better at that.”

AJ Johnson, 23, prepares to shoot the ball against Utah Valley University in Northridge, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2022. (Aliyah Hinckley)

Defensively in the first half, CSUN played 2-4-4, using only two forwards. Throughout the game, the Matadors kept Utah Valley out of the penalty box, forcing the Wolverines to make the right play. Freshman forward David Diaz applied a lot of pressure, forcing turnovers and deflections.

“We have been working on our defense all week. We had a new style with the press with two forwards leaving Utah Valley into their own lanes,” Rhead said. “Our goal was not to let them out of position.”

In the second half, the Matadors continued putting pressure on the Wolverines. Rhead brought the energy, pushing the Matadors forward with 39 minutes left. As CSUN attacked up the field, the ball went in the air as Rhead attempted a header but missed wide left. Edwards also threatened but did not score, hitting the goalkeeper’s hands. In the second half, CSUN had four shots on goal, bringing their total to five for the game.

“In the second half, we had four clear opportunities to score and didn’t,” said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. “We didn’t take advantage of it, we made some errors in the box and needed to capitalize on the chances we had.”

While they generated many chances on the offensive side of the ball, the Matadors also gave Utah Valley opportunities to score in the second half. With 27 minutes left, the Wolverines mounted an offensive attack. Midfielder Ura Miura striked, but sophomore goalie Cooper Wenzel came up with the save. However, the ball deflected off Wenzel’s hands and went right to midfielder Mark Andros, who scored the opening goal.

With the game three-quarters of the way done, CSUN junior AJ Johnson found himself in his own penalty box. The midfielder tripped, allowing Utah Valley forward Kendi Bellini to steal the ball. Bellini took two dribbles and scored, putting the Wolverines up 2-0. Davila appeared frustrated with the defense in the second half.

“When you give them the ball in the low zone, you give them good looks at the goal,” Davila said. “That error hurt us and was the difference in the game.”

In the last sequence, with a couple minutes left, junior defender Matthieu Mayindu took a shot that hit the goalpost. The miss gave freshman forward Enrique Pineda a chance for the rebound to cut the lead in half, giving the Matadors one last ray of hope. But Smith blocked the shot.

Going into the Sept. 16 game against Missouri State University, Davila’s message to his team is to move forward.

“We have to continue to improve and focus on our game,” Davila said. “It’s just one game. We have to forget about tonight and move on.”