Matadors men’s soccer fights to a draw against Gaels

Matadors goalkeeper Cooper Wenzel comes up with a huge save against the Saint Mary’s College Gaels on Sept. 21, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. Wenzel had seven saves on eight shots on goal.

Justin Parrott, Reporter

Coming off a two-game losing streak and a 7-0 loss to Missouri State University, CSUN men’s soccer focused on bouncing back to its winning ways against Saint Mary’s College Wednesday night.

Looking to seize their fourth win of the season, the Matadors (3-2-2) had trouble defending against Saint Mary’s (5-2-1). The Gaels applied a lot of pressure on the CSUN defense early in the game, but it was not until the second half that each team converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw.

When the whistle first blew, it was a hard back-and-forth contest.

Sixteen minutes into the first half, Gaels midfielder Wade Muttitt dribbled up the field and took the first shot, hitting the goalie right in the hands. Saint Mary’s defender Christian Engmann attempted a header a couple minutes later, but missed right of the goal.

With 24 minutes remaining, CSUN redshirt sophomore Arturo Reveles fouled forward Riley Lynch, giving Saint Mary’s a free kick inside Matador territory. The ball stung right at goalkeeper Cooper Wenzel’s hands and the redshirt sophomore made the save.

The Matadors men’s soccer team comes together to celebrate after scoring against the Saint Mary’s College Gaels on Sept. 21, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

CSUN responded when sophomore Marley Edwards got going with 22 minutes left. Receiving a pass from the far end of the field, Edwards fired a shot but missed wide of the goal.

But Saint Mary’s continued to keep its foot on the gas. With 12 minutes left in the first half, Engmann tracked down the ball in the penalty box, heading it wide of the goal.

The Matadors had two shots on goals to the Gaels four, giving Saint Mary’s the upper hand through 45 minutes.

“In that first half we allowed them to keep attacking us at times,” said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. “They really put pressure on you with their corner kicks and throw-ins, which gets you on your heels.”

In the second half, the Matadors started to put some pressure on the Gaels’ defense. After CSUN generated little to no offense in the first half, redshirt sophomore Jamar Ricketts sparked his team. With 39 minutes left, he directed a corner kick right to freshman forward Enrique Pineda, who shot the ball and watched it dribble into the goalie’s hands.

The teams proceeded to alternate scoring opportunities, but saves and wide misses kept the score 0-0 for the next 20 minutes.

Forward Marvin Arias, 2, chases down the ball against Gaels midfielder Omar Yehya on Sept. 21, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

In the 73rd minute, CSUN midfielder Oscar Cardenas dribbled the ball up the right side, passing to defender Dylan Gonzalez. The senior took a shot toward the low left side of the goal and it flew past Gaels’ netminder Jack Landreth, giving the Matadors a 1-0 lead. Gonzalez gives credit to the adjustment they made at halftime against the Gaels’ defense.

“Early on in the game they were trying to overflood our box,” Gonzalez said. “At halftime we talked about switching the ball more and that’s where the goal came from. They switched, I got a great ball from my teammate and I was fortunate to score and execute the play.”

Toward the end of the game, Saint Mary’s had a free kick near CSUN territory after a frustrated AJ Johnson kicked the ball at the fence for a yellow card. Defender Louis Sterobo powered the ball toward the goal, and off Wenzel’s fingertips. The ball went toward the goal line before Bryan Bustamante kicked it out of play.

With five minutes remaining, the Gaels found another opportunity to score and give themselves a chance. Sterobo earned a free kick near the halfway line on a foul by Edwards. He smashed the ball into the air, where it took a couple deflections in the penalty area before midfielder Bastian Toelhoej found it and nailed the ball into the goal to even the score.

With a couple of minutes remaining, Saint Mary’s had two corner opportunities to score the go-ahead goal, but CSUN played defense until the end to hold the tie. Midfielders Gael Quintero and Muttitt threatened in the last few seconds but Wenzel made two huge saves as the clock wound down to zero.

Going into the Sept. 24 game against University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Gonzalez looks for his team to bounce back.

“We have to move on, we had a tough loss last week. I’m proud of my teammates and the coaches we have here,” Gonzalez said. “I have faith we will come out of this.”