The CSUN men’s soccer team (6-2-1, 2-0-0) will need to stay focused if they hope to knock off No. 20 UC Santa Barbara at Harder Stadium this Saturday.
The Gauchos (5-2-1, 2-0-0), will attempt to add more drama and excitement to the rivalry between the two teams. CSUN and UCSB are tied in the all-time series at 10-10-3. UCSB, however, the Gauchos have won the last four matches in Santa Barbara. The last time CSUN won at Harder Stadium was a 1-0 win in overtime in 1999.
“My biggest hope is to beat Santa Barbara on their home turf,” Davila said. “There is drama involved in this series, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
In 2004, UCSB clinched the Big West title at home with a 2-1 victory against the Matadors when then senior forward Drew McAthy scored two goals after an early 1-0 Matador lead.
CSUN defeated the Gauchos 3-1 in an earlier 2004 meeting at Matador Field. After UCSB took a 1-0 lead, the Matadors fired back with three straight goals in the second half to beat the previously undefeated Gauchos.
CSUN opened Big West play with key wins at UC Riverside and at home against Cal Poly. Since becoming a Division I team in 1990, this has been only the second season in which CSUN has started off 2-0 in conference play. They started 2-0 in 2004 as well.
“These players want to feel great about themselves,” Davila said. “It makes them proud to be nationally recognized.”
Junior forward Willie Sims and senior midfielder/forward Daniel Paladini are among the key players, carrying the once 16th-ranked Matadors in the Soccer America poll.
Sims, a College Soccer News preseason All-American, is trying to get back into his rhythm after going two straight games without scoring a goal. He broke that streak by scoring his eighth goal of the season in a 3-1 win against Cal Poly Oct. 2. Sims also received the Big West Player of the Week honor after the first week of the season.
Paladini has earned some national recognition this season as well. This week, Paladini was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week and was given Big West Player of the Week honors.
Three Matadors received the Big West POW honors in the five awarded so far this season. Sims received the accolade on Sept. 5 and freshman goalkeeper Kevin Guppy received it Sept. 12.
Paladini began the week of Sept. 26 by scoring the game-winning goal against UC Riverside Sept. 28 in a 2-1 win. Then, against Cal Poly, Paladini scored in the minute eight, along with an insurance goal later in the game to secure the victory.
Davila said he feels that as long as the Matadors play as a team and stay realistic, they have a good chance of beating Santa Barbara.
UCSB began the season with a loss against California and a tie to Virginia. The Gauchos then won five of their next six matches, along with two conference wins, sending them into a tie with CSUN for the conference lead.
Gaucho goalkeeper Kyle Reynish has played every minute for UCSB and has carried a 0.85 goals against average, 31 saves and three shutouts. Senior forward Ivan Becerra leads the Gauchos with six goals and 14 points.
Becerra broke through with two goals against UC Riverside after not scoring in the first four games. After that, he scored a goal in minute 52 against Alabama A’M and another only a minutes later to seal the victory.
Becerra scored two goals against Cal Poly in an amazing stretch of 49 seconds to secure a win.
Defensively, the Gauchos have been tough to score on, allowing a Big West best, one goal for a 0.50 goals against average through two conference matches.
UCSB will host the Matadors at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Harder Stadium and will be broadcasted nationally on CSTV. However, a tape delay will force the game to be televised Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.
Daniel Noon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.