The CSUN men’s soccer team (2-9-2, 1-3-1) will try to break a three-game losing streak in Big West play as they look to upset No. 8 UC Irvine (10-1-2, 3-0-1) at home tonight.
“This win means everything,” team captain Rafael Garcia said. “We’re still in the thick of things with four points, and a win against Irvine could be a crucial step to turn things around now that we’re entering the toughest part of our schedule.”
The meeting of UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge is a tale of two teams who have taken very different paths throughout the season to get to this point, yet both will meet at Matador Soccer Field.
For the Matadors, they are coming off a heartbreaking loss to UC Davis, who scored the game-winning goal with two minutes left in the second half of overtime.
The difference between a tie and a loss may not seem like a big deal, but in the Big West where every single point matters, the addition of even one point awarded in a draw could mean the difference between the end of the season or postseason play.
After a span of two games against Air Force and Cal State Fullerton where the Matadors scored a combined seven goals, questions about scoring are again beginning to rise for the CSUN offense.
Despite only being outshot by one (44-43) during the Matadors’ three-game losing streak, they have been outscored 5-1, including two 1-0 losses to UC Davis and a 3-1 loss to Fullerton.
Things are only going to get harder for the Matadors as they enter the toughest part of their schedule, with a game at UC Santa Barbara Saturday and a home game against UCLA next Wednesday.
“This is the toughest part of the season for us,” Garcia said. “We’re playing the top teams in our conference in Irvine and Santa Barbara and we have a tough game against UCLA at home, which we definitely don’t want to lose since we haven’t lost to them in over two years.”
Yet with all the challenges this year’s schedule has provided, the Matadors are looking forward to the obstacles.
“These next three games may be the most crucial for us, but it is also the most exciting part of the season,” Garcia said. “With the help of our fans at home, there is no reason why we can’t come up with a win against Irvine if we play our best.”
As for the Anteaters, they are quite possibly the best team in the Big West and one of the best teams on the west coast. The Anteaters are the only team unbeaten in Big West play and are currently on a seven-game winning streak.
UC Irvine is also one of the best teams in the nation offensively. Despite their only loss of the season 2-0 against Sacramento State, the Anteaters have outscored opponents 23-1 in every win.
Facing one of the best teams in the nation, Garcia responded to anyone thinking tonight’s matchup would be yet another blowout.
“In my opinion Irvine is winnable. There is no team that can go unbeaten in the Big West,” he said. “Everybody thought that UC Santa Barbara would go undefeated, and just look at what happened to them.”