History was made at Matador Soccer Field, as CSUN beat the UCSB Gauchos 3-2 in the second round of the men’s soccer NCAA Tournament, winning its first ever Division I postseason game and advancing to the Sweet 16.
The Matadors were down on two separate occasions, but in minute 38 freshman Brian Siu nailed a 40-foot shot from the middle of the field that went past the extended arms of Gaucho keeper Kyle Reynish, keeping CSUN on top for good, 3-2. Matador freshman Jeff Konoske launched a corner kick that found the foot of sophomore Sean Franklin in the box, who saw Siu open in the center of the field.
“We have been working hard all year,” Siu said. “It was an amazing feeling to beat this team.”
The roller coaster ride that was the Matador/Gaucho match saw three lead changes, 49 total fouls and nine yellow cards in 90 minutes of play.
“You go into a UCSB game expecting the unexpected,” said head coach Terry Davila.
In the sixth minute, Matador senior midfielder Daniel Paladini slipped while attempting a pass. Gaucho Bryan Byrne intercepted the ball and took it the down the right side of the field, beating Matador freshman keeper Kevin Guppy to score an unassisted goal, giving UCSB a quick 1-0 lead.
Less than four minutes later, Paladini would get his redemption, sending a free kick from 30 feet out that curved into the bottom left corner of the goal, beating the outstretched Reynish to tie the game at 1-1.
“I had an assist for them and a goal for us,” joked Paladini. “I was pretty nervous to take the free kick, but when I saw it hit the back of the net I was so excited.”
In minute 12, UCSB regained control of the game as Ivan Becerra sent a shot past Guppy from inside the box. The 6-foot-4 sophomore Gaucho Andy Iro bumped the ball to teammate Andrew Proctor, who found Becerra for his 12th goal of the year, and more importantly UCSB’s second lead of the game, 2-1.
The Matadors would not give up, as junior Taylor Canel sent a cross pass from 35 feet out through a myriad of Gaucho defenders to the foot of senior Will Beard, who nailed a top-shelf goal, beating the disoriented Reynish. The Matador fans, among the packed house of 1,381, were once again ignited with hope.
“Will has dominated in practice and on the field,” Davila said. “He is a big part of our playoff team.”
“We weren’t going to give up,” Beard said. “We have confidence to know we can beat anyone we play. The fan support was incredible.”
Siu’s late first-half goal would eventually break the 2-2 deadlock and give CSUN the 3-2 advantage going into halftime.
“We haven’t given up a goal in three games,” said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. “(CSUN) is probably the best sit and counter team in the country.”
The second half in no way resembled the first, as CSUN and UCSB combined for eight of the game’s nine yellow cards and only three total shots on goal, compared with 10 in the first half. Despite the sloppy play, the Matadors hung on and eliminated the Gauchos goal of a 2005 NCAA Tournament future.
Although Guppy allowed an uncharacteristic two goals for the game, his presence was definitely felt, as the freshman made three crucial saves down the stretch.
“Right after UCSB first scored, I wasn’t sure what we’d do,” Guppy said. “But I knew we would come back. We had a lot of time left.”
Having home field advantage gave the Matadors the opportunity to exploit UCSB’s 0-4-1 record under Vom Steeg heading into the match at the Matador Soccer Field.
“We are a night team,” Vom Steeg said. “We played a team that plays very well at home.”
CSUN, through it all, hung on to secure a third-round bout with No. 2 New Mexico, after the Lobos beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a double overtime shootout in Albuquerque.
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com.