The Matadors used a defensive clinic and an improved offense to defeat long-time rival UNLV 2-0 in the championship game of the Cal State Fullerton Tournament on Sunday at Titan Stadium.
‘We got a great group of guys and a lot of confidence now,’ said Matador assistant coach Ivan Alzate, speaking of the team’s stingy defense that has ignited their wins. ‘I’m proud of the boys. They are not going to give up any goals. They are going to get the crucial shot blocked, saved or cleared.’
Northridge’s defense did the dirty job and the offense took care of the rest again. CSUN forwards Cameron Sims and Moy Gomez performed outstandingly and each scored a goal. Sims had the first in the 17th minute of the first half after getting a long pass from junior midfielder Luis Smith and calmly putting the ball into the back of the net. Gomez was the author of the second in the first minute of the second half via a header. Camilo Rojas provided the cross for Gomez’s score.
The Matadors attacked from the sides in this one and it created both goals. Norhtridge perplexed the Rebel defense with their domination of the edges throughout the game. ‘The side attacking worked well, but it was (also) team attacking,’ said CSUN head coach Terry Davila. ‘We are not trying to rely on just one player.’
Sims and Gomez both earned their second goals of the 2008 season. They had also scored in their previous match, a 3-0 win over Cal State Bakersfield on Friday. In just one weekend, they’ve become the Matadors’ leading scorers.
The Matadors (3-1-0) have more than bounced back from a disappointing season-opening 1-0 home loss to the Georgetown Hoyas in the CSUN Tournament. They’re now riding a three-game winning streak.
It was the second time that these teams faced each another in the championship game of a tournament. The Matadors defeated these same Rebels on their home field 1-0 during the 2007 UNLV Tournament. It was also the 15th game of the all-time series between Matadors and Rebels. Northridge improved their all-time lead to 9-6 with the weekend victory.
The assist for the first goal was Smith’s first of 2008. He also controlled the Matadors’ midfield and commanded the attack throughout the game. His performance was more than just an assist in the stat sheet, but he credits his teammates.
‘It was a great run (by Sims) that created the space where I could pass the ball and put him in a position to score,’ said Smith.
The Matador played without senior forward Devin Deldo and sophomore midfielder Rafael Garcia, both out with injuries. Deldo has 23 points as a Matador while Garcia had two goals and two assists last season. Despite the wins, Northridge misses their presence. They don’t plan on using that as excuse to let down, though.
‘We lost great players these last weekends due to injury,’ said Smith. ‘However, we are working as a group.’
The defenders’ great performance can be noted in the fact that Northridge goalkeeper Kevin Guppy didn’t have to record a single save in this game. There was one clear play of danger in his area, though. With five minutes remaining in the game, a long ball was thrown between Guppy and his defense that a Rebel actually managed to settle into the back of the Matador net. However, he was called for being offside, killing the Rebels’ only chance of the whole game.
‘You know, it is easy to be a good defensive coach when I get great defenders on my team,’ said Alzate. ‘They know the plan. They know the law. And they know their job. ‘Keep your voice’ is our slogan for the season.’
Including a preseason match against California, the Matadors have only allowed one goal in their last five games.
‘In the first half, we were connected and did well with the game plan and the players had confidence,’ said Davila. ‘In the second half, we got a little bit tired and started losing the quality of play. We just got to get a little bit more fit so we can maintain our high level.’