In front of nearly 2,300 screaming fans at Harder Stadium, the No. 22 CSUN men’s soccer team came away with an overtime tie against long-time conference rival UC Santa Barbara Oct. 8.
With just 3:15 left in regulation, freshman Matadors goalkeeper Kevin Guppy was called on an intentional handball in the box, awarding UCSB a penalty kick. Gaucho midfielder Bryan Byrne converted on the penalty, giving his team the 2-2 tie.
Less than two minutes later in minute 88, the Matadors had a chance to go ahead as senior Daniel Paladini was taken down in the box before he could attempt a shot, resulting in another penalty kick, this time for CSUN.
Head coach Terry Davila elected to have the charismatic midfielder Taylor Canel take the shot, but UCSB’s keeper Kyle Reynish guessed correctly, extending his arms long enough to slap away the attempt, sending the game into overtime.
In the first overtime, the Gauchos came out energized, taking two shots in a period of 35 seconds. However, the Gauchos failed to convert on perhaps the easiest attempt of the game, as midfielder Chris Pontius was wide open on the left side with no one left to beat but Guppy, yet he sent a ball more than 20 feet wide of the goal.
Just seconds later, Byrne fired a shot into the side of the net, which ignited the Gaucho fans, who from their angle thought it went in.
Both teams failed to score a goal in the first overtime, sending the game into a second overtime, where the score remained even and the match ended.
“We really should have won,” Paladini said. “But it gives us confidence knowing we came in here and played well.”
The Matadors got on the board early in the match as Paladini tapped in a ball from 10 feet out in the sixth minute. Canel launched a deep ball along the right side to sophomore Sean Franklin, who then crossed it to the foot of Paladini for his fifth goal of the season.
Following the goal and amidst a myriad of Gaucho boos, the excited CSUN team trotted along side the UCSB student section with their hand to their ears, quieting the crowd.
“We always hear them,” Paladini said. “This is a crazy environment to play in.”
Shortly after, in minute eight, the Matadors had a scare as junior star-forward Willie Sims went down with a knee injury.
“As I came down, my knee just went the other way,” Sims said. “It’s tough to be on the sideline not being able to contribute.”
Although Sims did not return to the game, he said he felt OK and was not in pain.
In minute 47, Gaucho Jeff Murphy headed a ball into the net on a free kick from Byrne to get the Gaucho’s on the board.
With Sims out, the Matadors had to rely heavily on their bench players to pick up the slack. Junior Ryan Rossi answered that call as he gave the Matadors its second lead of the game in minute 63 as he blew the ball by the UCSB keeper. Paladini’s free kick found senior Alec de Mattos, who beat his defender, passing the ball to Rossi for his second goal of the year.
“Rossi was great off the bench,” Canel said. “I am really proud of how we played.”
The game was loaded with fouls as a total of seven yellow cards were issued.
“It was an emotional game,” Davila said. “CSUN and Santa Barbara have a history and we’re starting to love our rivalry.”
The opposition, however, was a little bothered by the loss.
“It’s disappointing to tie because it is a home game and it seems like we split every year,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “The game at CSUN will probably decide the champion of the Big West (Conference).”
The two teams will get another chance to duke it out, when the Matadors host the Gauchos on Nov. 2 at Matador Field, where there could be possible NCAA tournament implications.
Paladini said he welcomes the challenge and is ready to have another chance at beating the Gauchos at home.
CSUN returns to Matador Field to begin a four-match homestand starting Tuesday when they host CSU Fullerton at 2:30 p.m. CSUN will also face No. 9 UCLA on Friday at 3 p.m.
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com.