With just over nine minutes remaining in regulation and the recent memory of the Oct. 14th tie against then No. 9 UCLA looming, the Matadors managed to score two goals, beating the co-Big West Conference leader UC Irvine 2-1 at Matador Soccer Field.
Junior forward Ryan Rossi was the hero for the Matadors, scoring both CSUN goals and his third of the season. The first of which came as sophomore Ferguson Agwu passed the ball to Rossi who charged towards the goal, lofting the ball over the six-foot-four frame of Anteater keeper Ryan Mathy to get the Matadors a 1-0 lead.
Rossi’s second goal came when sophomore Sean Franklin was fouled inside the box, awarding CSUN a penalty kick, which was converted for a 2-0 lead just over five minutes in the match.
The Anteaters, in their last push, managed to get a handball call fall their way, and were also granted a penalty kick. UCI’s Craig Ettinger beat freshman Kevin Guppy, as the Anteaters moved to within one goal of extending the match to overtime. But the Matador defense proved too dominate as UCI would not attempt another shot, ending the game in CSUN’s favor, 2-1.
With the victory the Matadors stand alone atop the conference standings, two points above the idle UC Santa Barbara Gauchos with 13.
Although the Matadors won the game, the two teams played the entire match statistically similar as both teams had 11 shot attempts. UCI had three shots on goal compared to five by the Matadors.
In minute 29, senior midfielder Daniel Paladini nearly gave CSUN the lead heading into halftime as he fired a ball towards the goal, but was deflected by Mathy. In the final minute of the first period, freshman Chad Borak launched a shot from nearly 40 yards out that was also saved by Mathy. Guppy, in goal, contributed two saves for CSUN.
The Matadors will have their work cut out for them, as the team will next face UC Riverside on Oct 22 at 2:30 p.m. in Northridge. The Highlanders are 4-8-1 overall and 2-3-0 in conference play. UCR will enter the game winners of two straight, over winless CSU Fullerton and Cal Poly.
The Matadors will enter the match unbeaten since Sept. 21 against the University of San Diego.
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com.