Men split, lose team?s ?quarterback?

Manouk Akopyan

The Matador men’s soccer team kicked off the 2008 regular season last weekend by hosting a four-team, four-game tournament and came out of it with a win, a defeat and a huge bite from the injury bug.

Northridge dropped its first game of the season 1-0 against Big East Conference member Georgetown University last Friday afternoon at Matador Field, but bounced back two days later to beat Alabama A’amp;M 2-0. In the midst of the two games, they lost something priceless: the services of sophomore midfielder Rafael Garcia.

The Matador suffered a potential season-ending injury to his right knee. Garcia was injured in the first half when he planted his foot into the grass, getting it caught. Following act: Garcia goes down, grimacing in pain.?

Garcia is, in head coach Terry Davila’s words, ‘the quarterback of the team.”

‘My foot got stuck in the field,’ explained Garcia as he stood in crutches with his right leg wrapped in a protective knee brace after the game. ‘I felt a pop as my knee shifted, then it came back in.’

Garcia said he’d have an MRI exam with team doctors this week. The injury has not yet been diagnosed, but Garcia fears a possible tear to his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). If that were the case, his 2008 season would be done in all likelihood.?

Although the season-opener finished in favor of the Hoyas, the final score didn’t translate to what took place on the pitch. For much of the 90-minute game, the Matadors controlled the ball, the game’s tempo and had the Hoyas’ defense backpedaling in the scorching summer heat. However, it only took one mischievous ricochet to get Northridge’s season off on a losing note.?

The lone Georgetown goal came at the 20-minute mark when a ball came sailing into the area of Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy and Hoyas’ midfielder Peter Grasso caught a bounce off his back and into the net. It would be the only shot on goal for Georgetown in the first half, as Northridge outshot them 8-1.

After the game, Hoyas’ head coach Brian Wiese admitted the game-winner was ‘luck’ and offered praise to a Matador team that many of the 375 fans in attendance would agree should’ve come out victorious. ?

‘You have to give Northridge a lot of credit,’ Wiese said. ‘I don’t think we handled them very well. They were able to put their stamp on the game and play it the way they wanted it to be played.’?

But a frustrated Davila wasn’t having it. To add to the loss to the Hoyas and Garcia, Davila said he was upset at players’ execution and understanding of their roles in certain situations.?He felt disappointment in CSUN’s wild play down the stretch.

‘We didn’t stick to our game plan to create enough quality opportunities,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t controlled aggressiveness.’

However, the Matadors did manage to come back strong on Sunday against the Bulldogs and capitalized on two of their goal opportunities. Senior Ben Cox and junior Sunghyun Kim scored first and second-half goals respectively to keep Alabama A’amp;M at bay and give CSUN its first win of the season. It wasn’t enough to win the tournament, however, as Georgetown beat Cal State Fullerton that same afternoon and was declared the champion with a 2-0 tournament record.

Not that losing the home tourney added fuel to Davila’s displeasure with the team, but the coach didn’t seem to take any relief from the Matadors’ strong showing on Sunday.

‘We got a long way to go, a long way,’ said Davila. ‘We controlled the actions (in the first game), but we didn’t really have the true offensive fluidity we wanted to have. I was disappointed in both games with our offensive fluidity.’

He isn’t making excuses for the team not counting with Garcia for the next games either. Davila still has the same expectations for the Matadors.

‘(Garcia)’s a really important part of our team and now everybody’s got to step up,’ he said. ‘He’s a great player, but we got a lot of other players in our program that can help out.’

The Matadors, without Garcia, will get back to action this weekend in yet another tournament. CSUN will be part of the Cal State Fullerton Tournament and face Cal State Bakersfield and UNLV. The game against the Roadrunners will be played on Friday at 2:30 p.m. while the one against the Rebels is on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.