The No. 22 Matador men’s soccer team emerged unscathed as they gutted out a 1-0 victory over the CS Fullerton Titans, behind the sure-footed play of senior forward Alec de Mattos’ second half goal at Matador Field on Tuesday.
“This game was set up for us to lose and we still won,” said head coach Terry Davila.
Fullerton came out firing early as they took the opening kick at mid-field and raced past the Matador defense. Titan Eugene Brooks fired a shot past goalkeeper Kevin Guppy at the left side of the goal box, only to have the ball bounce off the right post and back into play.
Fullerton continued to put pressure on Guppy as Jacob Shumway took a shot from the left side of the box, but Guppy came up with another save. Minutes later, Titan Yaron Shlomi had a chance to score, but his attempt was negated by Guppy.
CSUN’s best chance to get on the board came near the end of the half as sophomore Sean Franklin took a pass from senior Zach Feldman and shot a ball from the top of the box, only to watch his attempt sail over the goal, resulting in a scoreless first half.
“Fullerton did a lot of things right,” said Davila. “(They) closed lanes and made us uncomfortable.”
In the second half, it was the Matadors who came out aggressive on offense. Ryan Rossi had the first shot attempt for CSUN in minute 51, but his header went off to the right. Daniel Paladini had several chances to score, but his first attempt, in minute 59, missed to the right and the ensuing corner kick seconds later also failed to produce results.
Paladini also had a point-blank shot attempt at the top of the box in minute 62, but Titan keeper Matt Cowan saved his attempt.
CSUN’s best chance to break the scoreless deadlock came in minute 69 when Devin Deldo beat Cowan from the left side, but his shot attempt, like many of the previous, barely missed.
The Matadors finally got on the board as de Mattos received a pass from Rossi at the left side of the box and fired a precisely located shot from 12 yards out that found the top part of the net, achieving his second goal of the season.
Fullerton tried desperately to regroup as Titan Aaron Craggs tried to head a ball off a corner kick late in the game, but was foiled by Guppy. Titan Joe Barragan, with just over a minute left in the game, chased down a ball, and shot it high, but Guppy deflected it and Fullerton was whistled for offsides on the rebound attempt.
“We just keep goin’ at it,” said Franklin
Guppy finished with six saves and CSUN outshot Fullerton 19-11, including a 13-5 advantage in the second half.
Despite playing without star-forward Willie Sims, who was injured in the Matadors’ showdown against UC Santa Barbara Oct. 8, CSUN improved to 7-2-1, and 2-0-1 in Big West Conference play, while Fullerton fell to 2-8-1, and 0-2-0 in conference.
With the victory, CSUN will now focus on another big matchup against a top-ranked opponent. The Matadors will host the UCLA Bruins, Friday at Matador Soccer Field at 3 p.m.
The Bruins come in as the No. 9 ranked team in the nation and are led by Kamani Hill, who has a team-high 12 points and six assists. Bruin Jonathan Bornstein has a team-leading four goals and goalkeeper Eric Reed has recorded 28 saves in nine games. However, the Matadors feel confident they are ready for the Bruins.
“It’ll probably be more like this game,” said Franklin, referring to the game against Fullerton. “High intensity, but we’re up to the challenge.”
Ivan Yeo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.