Men’s soccer ties UCLA in opener

Ivan Yeo

The CSUN men’s soccer team finally left UCLA without a loss in six trips to Drake Stadium. However, it also left Drake Stadium without the one thing it really wanted: its first ever win against the Bruins.

For the second consecutive year, the two cross-county rivals battled to a neutral result. Unlike last year’s meeting at Matador soccer field, when the Bruins and Matadors couldn’t get the ball into the net, both teams punched in first half goals, then relied on their defense, goalkeeping, and a little bit of luck to make sure neither side found the inside of the goalpost again, thus preserving the 1-1 tie.

“Going to UCLA, playing at UCLA, there’s a lot of extrinsic things that you have to try to overcome,” head coach Terry Davila said. “Trying to teach your kids how to handle the ball in adverse situations, going to UCLA, a team that has four national championships, and to take them 1-1 at their place, it’s not the result we wanted, but we’ll take it.”

Forward Ryan Rossi nearly stole the win for the Matadors as the clock expired in the second overtime. With just under 10 seconds left, Rossi had the ball just to the right of the UCLA box. Rossi charged in and attempted to beat goalkeeper Eric Reed with a soft shot up toward the top crossbar, but Reed just got his left hand on the ball and deflected the ball well enough that it sailed over the goal.

“I hit near post, I saw it going in and Reed just ripped me man,” Rossi said jokingly. “He got his finger on it and I went up after him and I said ‘You can’t even give me that, c’mon I’ll pay ya.'”

It only took CSUN eight minutes and 15 seconds to get on the board. Rossi took a pass from freshman Sunghyun Kim, moved to his right and fired a laser past Reed that went through the net perfectly for an early 1-0 lead. Rossi’s goal broke a string of shutouts by UCLA, as the Bruins had not allowed a goal at Drake Stadium in two years.

“As soon as Sun played the cross, I was thinking that if I took it down, I would get hit, so I might as well hit it the first time, and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in,” Rossi said.

Rossi had a chance to make it two goals shortly after his first goal. Sophomore midfielder Brian Siu received the ball at the left side of Bruin territory, charged in on the goal and sent a low cross pass toward the right, Rossi charged in and slid towards the ball but missed, though not by much.

CSUN continued to put pressure on UCLA, defender Derek Hanks received a pass and attempted a header, but was deflected out and cleared by the UCLA defense. The ball, however went to forward Fergie Agwu who attempted a shot, but was off to the right.

UCLA finally started to show some life. Midfielder Sal Zizzo sent a ball into the box that was easily saved by goalkeeper Kevin Guppy. Then in the 20th minute, Zizzo attempted the first shot as he sent a ball from the right, but Guppy was on it for his first save of the match.

The Bruins finally got on the board in the 26th minute. Zizzo had the ball at the left side and evaded a slew of CSUN defenders. Zizzo then sent the ball towards midfielder Greg Folk near the top of the box and Folk fired a shot that sailed past Guppy at the left side of the goal to tie the game at one apiece.

In the second half, both teams had several chances to grab the lead, but ended regulation feeling a little empty, as a variety of shots were either saved by both goalkeepers, sailed over the post or to the side of it, or just ricochet off the post or the crossbar.

“We got a lot of good attacks,” Davila said. “Our opportunities were clear, just like theirs.”

In the first extra session, it was UCLA that had the good looks at the goal. Forward Jason Leopoldo had the best chance to win the game on a corner kick, as Folk fired the ball into the box, and Leopoldo received the pass and launched a header toward the box, but Guppy leaped high and made the save.

In the final overtime, it was CSUN who came out aggressive on offense. Midway through the overtime period on an inbound play, Agwu threw in a perfect inbounds pass to an open Clegg, who was deep inside UCLA territory. Clegg, with plenty of room to work with, charged in on the goal, and took a shot at the top of the box, but Clegg shot high and the ball cleared the post. Moments later, defender Sean Franklin found Rossi at the top of the box, but Rossi also shot high.

CSUN out-shot UCLA 16-12, with Rossi leading the Matadors with four shots and Clegg had two attempts, while UCLA had three different players with three. Guppy earned nine saves while his counterpart Reed had only one.

They pressured up, but I think we dictated the pace of the game,” Franklin said. “We slowed the ball down, knocked it, I think we played a very well game.”

CSUN headed east to West Virginia for a matchup with a tough Mountaineers squad back on Sept. 2. West Virginia went 13-8-2, 6-4-1 in the Big East Conference and made it to the second round of the NCAA College Cup tournament.