The CSUN men’s soccer team returned to the scene of its eventual final game over the weekend, though two early regular season tournament games had a little less significance than that of last year’s NCAA College Cup tournament battle.
CSUN traveled to New Mexico for the New Mexico Crescent Financial Solutions Invitational and had a fair showing, as the Matadors defeated Oakland 2-0 in its first game on Friday before falling to the 15th-ranked host New Mexico Lobos on Sunday.
Against Oakland, CSUN struck gold 12 minutes into the game, and it was forward Ryan Rossi who provided the score, as he fired from the left side of the field past New Mexico Lobos goalkeeper Steve Clark for his third goal of the season and a 1-0 Matador lead. Midfielder Devin Deldo provided the assist on that goal.
Oakland wasn’t the only obstacle standing in the way of the Matadors collecting their first win of the season. Mother Nature also emerged as a potential roadblock, as play was suspended eight minutes into the second half due to lightning.
“When you’re in L.A., all you have to do is fight the heat,” head coach Terry Davila said. “When you’re in New Mexico, you have to fight the wind, you have to fight the thunderstorms. It’s kind of different, so you just come to expect it.”
The Matadors quickly came out after their short little break and delivered its own lightning strike against Oakland in the 64th minute, as forward Sunghyun Kim fired the ball from the top of the box past Clark for his first goal of the year and first as a Matador.
Goalkeeper Kevin Guppy recorded three saves for the Matadors, the exact number as his counterpart for Oakland, Clark. CSUN out-shot Oakland 14-9, including an 8-2 advantage in the second half.
Two days later, the Matadors went into their next game looking for a little payback, as they matched up against the 15th-ranked New Mexico Lobos, the team that knocked them out of the NCAA tournament last November.
Again the Matadors came to play, attempting 11 shots to the Lobos’ 10, but just like last year, when CSUN out-shot New Mexico 15-11, but lost in overtime 1-0, New Mexico had just enough to push through, as the Lobos scored near the midpoint of the second half and held on for a 1-0 win.
New Mexico started the game hot, as they attempted four shots, but neither found the back of the net and Guppy recorded one save on those four shots, as he snuffed out P.J. Wilson in the 15th minute.
CSUN then started to turn it up on the offensive end, as they attempted three shots in a five-minute span, but just like New Mexico, CSUN also came out empty-handed, as two shots by Kim in the 19th and 24th minutes respectively ended up in the hands of Lobos goalkeeper Mike Graczyk and midfielder Michael Clegg also had an attempt stopped by Graczyk in the 20th minute.
The next shot attempt came in the second half, when the Lobos’ David Gualdarama had his shot attempt at the top of the box saved by Guppy in the 50th minute, though Gualdarama got redemption in the 68th minute, as he took a pass from Zach Tierney at the top of the box and sent the ball past Guppy for the game’s first goal.
CSUN tried desperately to tie the game after the goal. Kim had a look in the 77th minute, but was denied by Graczyk. Sophomore midfielder Brian Siu recovered the ball for the Matadors, but shot too high, as the ball cleared the post. Rossi had CSUN’s last good look in the 84th minute, but he also was denied by Graczyk.
Graczyk tallied five saves for the match while Guppy had two. CSUN out-shot New Mexico 8-6 in the second half. Despite the loss, Davila said he saw some good things out there.
“We played better against New Mexico than we did against Oakland,” Davila said. “I thought we dominated the game more against New Mexico than we did against Oakland.”
CSUN is now 1-2-1 on the year. The Matadors’ long-awaited home opener is this Friday, as they host the San Francisco Dons as part of a brief three-game homestand. CSUN also hosts another West Coast Conference powerhouse, the Santa Clara Broncos on Sunday, also at 4 p.m. before opening Big West Conference play against the UC Riverside Highlanders on Sept. 20 at 2:30 p.m.