CSUN faces big road test in UCLA Sunday

Alonso Tacanga

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The Matadors aren’t scared of UCLA. They weren’t afraid last year when the Bruins came into Matador Soccer Field ranked 10th in the nation just to be humiliated 3-0 and they’re not going to be intimidated this time around before a UCLA squad that isn’t good enough to be considered top-10 in the Far West region.

Beware CSUN. Beware.

A Matador team coming off a confidence-building 2-1 victory over once-undefeated Sacramento State will pay a visit to an on-paper underdog in UCLA (2-3-1) on Sunday at Drake Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

‘UCLA doesn’t duck anybody,’ said Matador Head Coach Terry Davila, explaining how the Bruins’ record is deceiving. ‘They play everybody in the nation that they can. They take all comers and that’s what you got to respect about UCLA and (their head coach) Jorge Salcedo. He respects and fears nobody.’

The Bruins have barely managed two victories in six games despite starting the season as the No. 14 team in the country according to the NSCAA/adidas National Rankings. Their only wins came at the expense of two less-than-average teams: UC Riverside and Santa Clara, squads that have combined to lose nine out of 15 games.

UCLA’s other games, however, bring in factors that make the Bruins a bit hard to figure out.

UCLA played Maryland in their season-opener, a game against a team that came into 2008 ranked nationally as No. 8. They lost that game in overtime 2-1, but there is more to tell than just the final score. The Bruins were winning that match up to the 89th minute before a heartbreaking Terrapin goal sent the game into an extra period, where UCLA fell.

The loss helped to bump them down to No. 19 then.

‘UCLA has a past, but I think they live off that past too much,’ said CSUN forward Cameron Sims. ‘Northridge beat them last year and things have changed since.’

After the season-opening loss, an easy 3-0 victory over the Highlanders came, which was a bit of a confidence-builder for the Bruins. They needed it. Their next rival was the defending champion Wake Forest Demon Deacons, also the No. 1 team in the nation. No amount of confidence could help them, however, as UCLA was handled with ease on the road.

The Bruins had more dandies awaiting. North Carolina and their No. 18 ranking were next and UCLA came away with a late tie. Then No. 19 Indiana visited and the Bruins once again were humiliated, 3-0, this time on their home field.

On Saturday, UCLA bounced back by beating Santa Clara 2-0 at home. One day later, the Matadors were doing the same, but by winning against a quality opponent in Sacramento State. CSUN had lost two games in a row in Wisconsin, but a smell of their home grass and an aggressive approach paid off as they handed the Hornets their first defeat of the season. Sacramento State is still ranked seventh in the Far West while UCLA is nowhere in sight in the rankings. Northridge didn’t make the cut either, but received votes.

‘(Better) on paper means nothing to us,’ said CSUN forward Moy Gomez. ‘Everything that matters is what happens out on the field within those 90 minutes. We don’t get caught up on what it says on paper because obviously Sacramento State was better than us on paper, by a lot, and that didn’t get them very far.’

UCLA has played tough games. The Matadors have faced some strong opposition as well, but not like that one of the Bruins. UCLA was 45 seconds away from beating the No. 8 team in the country. Northridge defeated the seventh-ranked team on their region. The Bruins aren’t ranked and neither is CSUN, but the ones in red and black are closer.

UCLA will be the home team.

Is that the tiebreaker?

Rankings make no sense, but there’s no question some Matadors would like to see Northridge’s name in it again. A win against the Bruins could help a great deal in making it happen.

‘It’d be very nice to be in the rankings,’ said Gomez. ‘But that’s just a number as far as we’re concerned because ultimately (what) we want (is) to win the Big West and get into the NCAA Tournament.’

Check out our blog ‘The Matador Score’ at: www.sundial.csun.edu