Prior to kicking off Big West Conference play, the CSUN men’s soccer team tested itself this past weekend against the best of the West Coast Conference at Matador Soccer Field Sept. 15-17.
The Matadors lost the first game to eighth-ranked San Francisco last Friday, losing 2-1 on a late second-half goal, but rebounded in a huge way to take the second game on Sunday afternoon against No. 6 Santa Clara on the strength of a strong second half surge.
“It was good to get this feeling back before we go into conference,” forward Ryan Rossi said.
Against San Francisco, the Matadors got some key plays on defense, as goalkeeper Kevin Guppy made two saves, the first on a free kick by Brandon McDonald early in the game and the second on a slow lob by Jesse Henderson.
USF, however, got the last word heading into the locker room. Just moments after Hanks snuffed out McDonald’s sure score, CSUN quickly attempted to work the ball out of its own territory, but instead, turned it over near the top of the Matador box. Ardalan Attar was the beneficiary of the Matador miscue, as he took the ball, moved in and scored from the left post with 12 seconds left to give USF a 1-0 lead at the half.
The Matadors worked to get themselves back in the game in the second half, attempting five of the first six shots to start the half. CSUN however, didn’t break through until the 80th minute. Midfielder Adrian Lopez sent a cross-pass to the right side of the goal, where midfielder Michael Clegg received and fired a shot past goalkeeper Geremy Uhl for his first collegiate goal and the equalizer.
CSUN’s joy, though, did not last long, as San Francisco mounted an attack in the 87th minute. Forward Conor Chinn sent a pass into the Matador box, and Aaron Chandler sent a shot at the right post past Guppy into the net for a 2-1 Dons win.
Two days later, the Matadors took the field against Santa Clara looking for redemption, but things again didn’t start out well, as CSUN was called for a foul inside the Matador box 10 minutes into the game, which awarded the Broncos a penalty kick, and Peter Lowry converted for an early 1-0 Bronco advantage.
In the second half, the tide dramatically turned the Matadors’ way. Midfielder Devin Deldo took a pass from forward Fergie Agwu and fired a shot at the top of the box to beat goalkeeper Joseph Buttitta, tying the game at one.
“Once the first one came, we knew the second one was going to come,” defender Sean Franklin said.
Agwu provided that second goal in the 54th minute, as he received a cross from Lopez at the right side of Bronco territory, went in and fired the ball at the right corner past Buttitta into the net, to give the Matadors the lead.
Buttitta injured himself shortly after the goal and was replaced by Ari Zlotoff who scored CSUN’s third goal in the 58th minute, though in a rather unusual way. CSUN was called for a foul in Santa Clara territory, but when Zlotoff attempted to clear the ball on the ensuing corner kick, he inadvertently kicked if off Lopez. Lopez alertly took the ball and sent a soft lob into an empty Santa Clara box and Rossi easily sent the ball into the net for a 3-1 Matador lead.
“We needed some breaks and we got some breaks,” head coach Terry Davila said.
CSUN earned another insurance goal in the 84th minute. Midfielder Taylor took the ball around midfield, raced deep into Bronco territory and gave the ball up to Agwu, who immediately chipped a soft pass to forward Sunghyun Kim, who was inside the box. Kim quickly fired the ball at the right post that rocketed past Zlotoff into the net for his second goal of the season and a 4-1 cushion.
“We knew we could do it, so we were pretty eager to come out and (show) what we had,” Guppy said.
CSUN was aggressive on offense, out-shooting the Broncos 16-6 in the second half and 23-8 for the game. Guppy recorded three saves in goal and Kim led the Matadors in shot attempts with four.
“We’ve been doing that all year, they just happened to go in,” Davila said of his team’s aggressiveness on offense.
Agwu also made his presence felt for the Matadors. Aside from his goal and two shot attempts, Agwu did the little things for CSUN, such as hustling to the ball and igniting fast breaks and scoring opportunities for the Matadors.
“I had to do something to support the team somehow,” Agwu said. “Whether it’s on defense or offense, what ever it is to help the team, help us get a victory.”
“Fergie’s been giving us that all year,” Davila said. “Today, he completed his plays, I’m very happy for him.”
The Matadors conclude their three-game home stand on Sept. 20, as they open up Big West Conference play against the UC Riverside Highlanders.