Like a football team ready for its first game after a grueling summer of practices, the CSUN men’s soccer squad is boiling with anticipation to play a team other than itself.
In a recent Tuesday team scrimmage, things got a little testy among Matadors players competing in one of their last tune-ups before the season gets under way.
But it wasn’t a sign of team animosity or division – rather a display of anticipation for what awaits. And Friday the team will get what it has been hungering for. Coach Terry Davila’s team will host its first and only exhibition match as the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV come to Northridge.
Davila does not appear to be tipping his hand when it comes to who his starting 11 will be. One recent intra-squad game featured multiple possible starters on both sides — on a team that features 12 returning seniors and a handful of upperclassmen, there’s an abundance of athletes competing for playing time.
But the glaring question for the Matadors is who will replace two-time Big West Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Kevin Guppy. Third-year sophomore Brandon Ibarra and freshman Michael Abalos continue to compete for that position.
The Matadors return their four leading scorers from a year ago, giving them multiple playmakers and threats with the ball. But it is CSUN’s respected defensive play that will be tested when the Matadors break in their new and unproven goalie, whomever it is. The team defense averaged just over one goal given up per game last season.
UNLV comes in to Friday’s exhibition with more game experience in 2009, having already played in two exhibition games. But if track records are worth anything, CSUN is the team expected to do greater things this season.
Despite being plagued by injuries to several key players such as junior forward Moy Gomez and senior forward Cameron Sims, the Matadors still posted an 8-7-4 record in 2008 and had an opportunity to reach the postseason up until the last game of the season.
UNLV, on the other hand, finished last season 8-9-1 — and that was its best record since 2002, according to the Rebels’ sports information Web site.
The biggest challenge for this year’s Rebels will be replacing 2008 star Lamar Neagle, who had a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Conference-high nine goals.
CSUN was picked to finish fourth in the Big West in the coach’s poll.