Nothing like the sight of the team you have spent the last four years battling atop the Big West Conference with to get the juices flowing while seeking your first conference win.
After two ties in its first two conference games, the CSUN men’s soccer team will renew acquaintances with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos this afternoon at Matador soccer field, and if the script follows the same pattern of the last four years, then it should be yet another Matador-Gaucho battle royale.
Last year, the two teams took the rivalry to new heights. After holding off the Gauchos for their second conference title in three years, the Matadors sat and watched as Santa Barbara defeated San Diego State 2-0 in the opening round of the NCAA College Cup tournament. Thus, the stage was set for Nov. 22 at Matador soccer field for a second-round meeting and perhaps the most intense 90 minutes of soccer in the history of the Matador-Gaucho rivalry.
In front of a sellout crowd of 1,381, both teams gave the fans plenty of suspense. The Gauchos struck six minutes into the game on a goal by Bryan Byrne, but CSUN countered four minutes later, as Daniel Paladini launched a corner kick past goalkeeper Kyle Reynish to tie the game. Santa Barbara answered right back, as Ivan Becerra scored three minutes later to take the lead back. CSUN though waited patiently, and 12 minutes after Becerra’s goal, Will Beard scored in the 24th minute to tie the game once again. CSUN finally pushed ahead in the 39th minute, when Brian Siu scored from 35 yards to help come away with their first ever NCAA Division-I postseason win.
When the 2006 Big West preseason polls came out, it was no surprise that CSUN and UCSB were picked to finish in the top two, with the Gauchos as the conference favorite and the Matadors finishing in second. Both teams were also ranked nationally, with Santa Barbara ranked 21st and CSUN ranked 23rd.
Though the Gauchos have played to their capabilities, starting the season 5-2 before a 1-0 loss to UC Davis back on Sept. 23. CSUN has struggled so far, going 2-3-3 in its first eight games. CSUN has played a tough schedule against teams like UCLA, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and New Mexico, which knocked CSUN out of the tournament last year. UC Santa Barbara has only had to worry about Virginia and San Diego State.
Offensively, the Matadors have taken a conference-high 131 shots, but have only scored 11 goals. Michael Clegg has taken a team-high 22 shots while Sunghyun Kim has taken 14. Kim and Ryan Rossi have accounted for most of CSUN’s offense. Rossi has scored a team-high three goals while Kim has scored two.
The Gauchos’ offense is led by Bongomin Otii, who has scored five goals on 15 shot attempts in eight games. Otii’s five goals place him in a tie for second with Cal State Fullerton’s Eugene Brooks.
On defense, the Gauchos are led by preseason All-American defender Andy Iro and Reynish. Reynish has recorded four shutouts and is tied for first with UC Irvine’s Kenny Schoeni. Reynish also leads the Big West in saves percentage, as his 30 saves in eight games give him a .857 percentage.
Matador Kevin Guppy is tied for third with Reynish in saves per game (3.75) and is part of a three-way tie for second with Reynish and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Eric Branagan-Franco in totals saves (30 for each). The Matador defense is third in goals allowed (1.12).
Since 2000, when the Gauchos last defeated the Matadors at Northridge 3-1, the Matadors are 4-0-1 against the Gauchos at Matador Soccer Field, CSUN’s regular season win over the Gauchos last year came on Nov. 2. Guppy came up huge for the Matadors that day, making four crucial saves inside the last three minutes.
Game time for today’s game is slated for 2:30 p.m.