Matador of the Week: David Diaz

CSUN defender Dylan Gonzalez, 3, and forward David Diaz, 58, celebrate the former’s go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute against the Saint Mary’s College Gaels on Sept. 21, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif.

Benjamin Miller, Reporter

CSUN men’s soccer forward David Diaz is Matador of the Week after being named The Big West 2022 Men’s Soccer All-Conference Team Freshman of the Year. He became the first Matador to receive the award since Kevin Guppy in 2005. Diaz is the fourth CSUN men’s soccer player in history to earn the distinction of Big West rookie of the year.

“Yeah, it was really exciting, honestly. I had that mindset and that goal coming to the school,” Diaz said. “I told myself, ‘I want to win freshman of the year.’”

Diaz stood out on the pitch thanks to his field vision and outstanding passing skills. He ended the season with three assists, tied for second on the team. Diaz also earned seven points, tied for third with Dylan Gonzalez, to cap off his rookie campaign.

This performance comes as no surprise following his impressive high school career. He holds claim to a flurry of accolades: he was named 2021 and 2022 Los Angeles Daily News Player of the Year, scored the most goals in a single season at Birmingham Charter High School with 33, and made three CIF Los Angeles City Section Division I finals appearances, walking away with two titles in 2019 and 2021.

His first year at college was a triumph, a step-up from high school competition.

“I always like setting goals before the season starts,” Diaz said. “If I tell myself something, I try to get it done. My mindset plays a big role in that. A lot of freshmen struggle with the transition from high school soccer or club soccer to playing Division I soccer. Coming into college, I knew what I was there for.”

CSUN forward David Diaz, 58, dribbles the ball against UC Davis defender Cole Pond, 27, on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at the Performance Soccer Field in Northridge, Calif. (Aliyah Hinckley)

Before Diaz came to CSUN, he made a pit stop playing for a professional team in Fresno over the summer. Just days after Diaz graduated from high school, he received an offer to play soccer for Central Valley Fuego FC, a professional soccer team in USL League One. They covered all of his living expenses and signed him to an amateur contract, which unlike a professional contract allowed him to keep his college eligibility. This was a big deal for Diaz, who played for a professional club before ever wearing a college jersey — a rare opportunity for someone his age.

Playing with and against older men gave Diaz a glimpse of professional competition and better prepared him for college ball. Spending time on the field gave Diaz the opportunity to soak up as much information from his teammates as possible, allowing him to implement it in his own game and make him the best version of himself. His experience with Fuego FC gave him the confidence to start off his college career with a bang.

“I worked my butt off there. Once I came back to college … I was not as scared or as timid as the rest of [the] freshmen, because I already lived through that in the summer,” Diaz said. “While they were on break, I was playing professional minutes and training every day with a professional team.”

Diaz’s family has had a huge impact on his development as a soccer player. Diaz started playing organized soccer at 5 years of age, but his parents say he has been kicking a ball since he could walk. There is plenty of soccer influence in the Diaz family: his parents have been fans for as long as he can remember, and his older brother played semi-professional soccer before an injury derailed his career.

His older brother is his role model; Diaz remembers going to practice with his brother and watching his matches growing up. He now wears number 58 to honor his brother, who wore that number during his own playing career. Once his family got him involved, Diaz fell in love with the sport and decided it would be the only one he would ever play, thanks to the opportunities it could afford him.

“I want to make my parents proud, first and foremost,” Diaz said. “If I can make my parents proud by going to university, and be the first person in my family to go to university, and I could also play soccer — I should take advantage of that.”

His childhood dream is to be a professional soccer player. Diaz hopes to go pro as quickly as possible, so he can come back and finish his degree. For now, Diaz is looking forward to next season with championship aspirations.

The Matadors battled but ultimately lost to No. 1 seed UC Riverside in the semifinals of the Big West Men’s Soccer Championship this year. Diaz and the team are still very young and building chemistry, but he anticipates fighting for a title in the upcoming year.

“I feel that we can make it to the championship game. And now teams will have respect for us. This year they predicted us not even making the playoffs, before the season,” Diaz said. “We had a lot to prove this year, and now they are going to put respect on our name, and CSUN as a program.”