Matador forward Moy Gomez seemed smug during a practice last week when he said CSUN would put up ‘at least two goals’ against an unbeaten team with a defense that had only allowed one goal in six games. Those just usually aren’t the kinds of things one says when his team’s on a two-game losing streak.
Over the weekend – on the field – Gomez earned a right to talk some more if he wants to. With a Gomez goal, followed by a Camilo Rojas’ last-minute game-winner, the Matadors (4-3-0) bounced back from a two-loss misstep and beat Sacramento State 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Matador Soccer Field. The win pushed Northridge over the .500 mark and gave the team a much-needed boost.
‘I told you we’d score at least two goals on them,’ Gomez said. ‘I told you that if we were on the top of our game and we clicked offensively there was no reason why we shouldn’t have been able to beat (Sacramento State).’
Gomez put in his shot in the 63rd minute after midfielder Dylan Riley found him just inside the box with a defender at his back. The forward initially wasn’t facing the goal, but a quick move allowed him to turn around and get just enough time to get off a straight, low shot with the tip of his cleat. There was nothing Bryan Oliver, the Hornets’ goalkeeper, could do, the kick was just too hard for him to react on time.
Ironically, the goal came at a time when Sacramento State seemed closer to opening the score. However, that same irony helped the Hornets knot it up as CSUN was on the verge of adding to the score right before its opponent struck back.
Northridge midfielder Milan Radovic and defender Chad Borak both had danger-bringing shots moments before a header by Sacramento State scoring-leader Blake Nunez equalized the score 1-1. Hornet defender Omar Martinez crossed a pass from the right side of the field into the Northridge area as Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy came out trying to grab the bomb before it reached its destiny. However, Guppy couldn’t get to the ball on time and Nunez sent it into the back of the net. It was the 73rd minute.
‘We were pleased with our reaction after both times (Northridge) scored,’ said Sacramento State Head Coach Michael Linenberger. ‘When they scored the first goal, we felt like they were all over us for a while, but we had a good reaction as a team and came back to tie.’ The Hornets’ reaction proved why they were undefeated before the meeting at Matador Soccer Field. From that point on, both teams created opportunities, but it was Sacramento State who had the clearer chances in the span. Guppy was bailed out with six minutes left in the game after he tried to throw a long hand-pass from his area but instead hit a Hornet player in the back of the head, causing the ball to fall loose in his box with him out of position. The official, however, stopped the actions, thinking the offensive player had deliberately stood in Guppy’s way when in reality all he was guilty of was not having an aspirin bottle to get rid of the headache Guppy’s hit left.
Two minutes later, Guppy was a true hero. The goalie used all of his 6-foot-1 frame to get to a difficult outside shot from Hornet forward Matthew Tellez with four minutes left. And just when it seemed that Guppy and the Matadors would have to get ready for overtime, Northridge delivered the knock-out blow.
Rojas was the recipient of an unselfish play from forward Cameron Sims in the 88th minute. After Oliver repelled danger from his goal once with a great save, Sims found himself with a generous bounce at goal. Instead of trying to convert it himself, he passed to Rojas, who was trailing in the middle of the box. Rojas put the shot low and it went through the legs of Oliver as pandemonium took place on the home team’s sidelines.
‘Good for (Rojas). Good for the team,’ said Matador Head Coach Terry Davila. ‘Camilo needed this. The team needed this.’
The team celebrated the score while coaches on both sides scrambled to get substitutions in and out. When a goal happens in the 88th minute, it’s easy to forget that there’s still 120 seconds to be played. Sacramento State, however, made sure those minutes wouldn’t go unmentioned as they created a couple of opportunities. The last one of them, a header by forward Chris Bettencourt that was just off Guppy’s left post. Had it not been for a Matador defender blocking Bettencourt’s view as the cross landed, this headline would have read different. Bettencourt missed the tie untouched.
Seconds after, the game ended.
‘This game should be a turnaround for us,’ said Rojas. ‘We got the goal. We got the victory that we needed. This should carry on to (the weekend match against) UCLA.’
The Sunday game against the Bruins (2-3-1) will be a road one and is set to kick off at 2:30 p.m.