Stage set for Matador, Gaucho season finale

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Fresh off a 2-0 win over UC Davis on Oct. 29, the No. 14 Matador men’s soccer team now prepares for another showdown with the No. 13 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Matador Soccer Field today at 2 p.m.

“It’s a big game (today),” said sophomore Sean Franklin. “Obviously, its us and Santa Barbara at the top, and hopefully we can win and secure first place in the Big West.”

CSUN (6-0-1 in conference) currently holds a two-point advantage over Santa Barbara (5-0-2) for first place in the Big West. A CSUN win or tie could put them comfortably in the driver’s seat.

“It would be good to come out with a victory,” senior midfielder Daniel Paladini said. “We’re on a good run right now.”

The Gauchos kept its Big West title hopes alive when they defeated CSU Fullerton 2-0 at Harder Stadium on Saturday. In minute 47, Gaucho Ivan Becerra scored his tenth goal of the season. Chris Pontius sealed the win, with a goal in minute 84, and goalkeeper Kyle Reynish made seven saves.

The Matadors and Gauchos last clashed at Harder Stadium Oct. 8, with both teams settling for a grueling 2-2 tie. Paladini scored the first goal of the game six minutes into the match, but CSUN received a scare when star forward Willie Sims was forced to leave the game with a knee injury.

Santa Barbara’s Jeff Murphy tied the game three minutes into the second half, but junior Ryan Rossi scored in minute 63 to regain the lead.

CSUN held the lead with three minutes to play, but Santa Barbara received a huge break when CSUN was called for handball inside the box, giving the Gauchos a penalty kick. Santa Barbara’s Bryan Byrne made sure the opportunity did not go to waste, as he converted on the penalty, tying the game at 2-2.

CSUN then had a chance to win the game in the final minute, as Paladini was fouled in the box, giving CSUN a penalty kick. The always-energetic midfielder Taylor Canel was chosen to take the penalty kick, but Reynish blocked the attempt, sending the match into overtime.

Both teams combined for 11 shots in the two overtime periods, but could not convert as the game ended with both teams settling for a draw in what was a tension-filled game. Both teams combined for seven yellow cards.

The Matadors are currently on a nine-match unbeaten streak going 7-0-2. The Matadors have not lost since Sept. 21, when they were beaten 1-0 by the University of San Diego at home.

CSUN played without four starters on Saturday against UC Davis, but got contributions from freshman Brian Siu and senior Zach Feldman, who both scored their first goals of the year.

“We’re going to need everybody for (UCSB),” said Paladini. “We got Zach (Feldman) and Brian (Siu) that contributed and we need that for (today) too.”

A CSUN win over Santa Barbara will also give CSUN a chance to dish out a little payback. Last season, UC Santa Barbara clinched the Big West title with a 2-1 win over CSUN at Harder Stadium on Nov. 9. Paladini scored in minute 13 to give CSUN an early lead, but Gaucho Drew McAthy tied the game, as he scored off a corner kick in minute 51 for the eventual game-winner.

“The biggest thing is its at home, and hopefully we’ll get a lot of fan support, because playing at (Santa Barbara) … they get all their fans,” said goalkeeper Kevin Guppy. “Hopefully we can keep playing the way we’re playing.”

Matador Soccer Field has been kind to CSUN against Santa Barbara. The Matadors have not lost to the Gauchos at home since the 2000 season, Terry’s Davila’s second year as head coach. CSUN has won three and tied the other against UCSB, the tie coming in 2002.

“It’s huge,” Franklin said of having home field advantage. “It is way better here.”

CSUN also hopes to have Sims back in the lineup today. Sims has missed the last six games and was actually in uniform on Saturday, though he did not play.

“I think we’re the better soccer team,” Sims said. “We just had bad luck in the past years. We tied at their house and got a point. We don’t want to give them a point here.”

Today’s game will also mark the final regular season home game for seniors Paladini, Feldman, Will Beard and Alec de Mattos. All four players will be honored prior to the game.

Ivan Yeo can be reached at ivan.yeo.80@csun.edu.