If the events which transpired in CSUN’s first and only men’s soccer exhibition match are any indication of what the regular season has in store, then Coach Terry Davila’s squad will be as competitive as ever.
In the 89th minute of Friday game, redshirt sophomore Rafael Garcia stepped into a free kick from the right corner of the UNLV box and executed a picturesque hooking shot that found the right side of the net, giving the Matadors a 3-2, come-from-behind win over the Runnin’ Rebels at Matador Field.
The shot – set up in front of the Matadors bench – sent the crowd and players into an explosion of cheers.
Despite getting off to an early 1-0 lead, the Matadors found themselves midway through the second half in 2-1 deficit. In a span of about five minutes, UNLV took the lead with two consecutive goals, the latter coming in the 67th minute.
Two minutes later, however, the Matadors scored the equalizer, as freshman Yuval Barak lofted a pass from the right sideline at about midfield into the Rebels box where fifth-year senior Devin Deldo headed the cross past the goalkeeper.
Then, with just over a minute of play remaining in regulation, Garcia was making his move toward the UNLV net and was taken down by a Rebel player’s tackle. An illegal tackle, as it turned out, and the referee awarded the free kick that would prove the game-winner. Garcia used that kick to take care of the rest – and of UNLV.
Despite Friday being only an exhibition match, it became very competitive in the second half and was important for the Matadors on several fronts.
The match marked the return of several key players looking to bounce back from injuries. In fact, both Deldo and Garcia were among the swarm of injured players from last year’s 8-7-4 (4-3-3 in Big West Conference play) squad. Deldo started the game at one of the forward positions while Garcia came off the bench in the second half.
Matador Notes: The Matadors still have no one-man answer to the question of who will replace 2008 Big West Goalkeeper of the Year Kevin Guppy on the 2009 squad. On Saturday, both Brandon Ibarra and Michael Abalos each played a half.
Ibarra is a third-year sophomore and has been around the program longer, giving him the advantage as far as college experience goes.
Heading into his team’s last remaining practices, Davila had said both goalies were running dead-even in the competition to get the starting job.
Davila used the exhibition match to get several players minutes off the bench, having made seven substitutions in all. Now the coach has until CSUN’s Tuesday season opener on the road against University of San Diego to decide who his starting 11 will be.
The Matadors first half goal was knocked in by redshirt senior Chad Borak after a deflection and scramble inside the UNLV box in the 12th minute.