Matadors get tie at Santa Barbara

Alonso Tacanga

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Play until the final whistle. And don’t stop competing to guess what the referee is going to call. You might get burned.

That’s the lesson the No. 18 Gauchos got from the Matadors (5-4-2) Wednesday night at Harder Stadium, location of their 2-2 double-overtime tie. Northridge was down a whole offensive line, but not down relentlessness, or luck. The trait helped CSUN even up the score and get out of Santa Barbara with a positive result.

Matador forward Milan Radovic was the beneficiary of a broken play in which Gaucho goalkeeper Kristopher Minton got knocked to the ground and, apparently, hurt. With defenders waiting for a whistle to blow the play dead before what they thought was a foul, Radovic found the ball in front of an unguarded net. He put it in and tied the score at two. It happened in the 61st minute of play.

‘I was just standing there,’ Radovic said of the play. ‘I was just at the right place at the right time and I just put it away. I don’t know what happened to the goalie. It doesn’t really matter.’

The teams couldn’t break the tie in the remaining minutes and headed into overtime. The Gauchos had to do it with a man less, however, due to Danny Barrera’s ejection after the midfielder impeded the game’s progress during back-to-back occasions on a last-minute Northridge free kick. Barrera was given a yellow card for each foul, which earned him a red card and a disqualification from the match.

The Matadors weren’t able to capitalize on the one-man advantage in the following two 10-minute periods, though. They only got off one shot, in contrast to UC Santa Barbara’s four, and had to have goalkeeper Kevin Guppy intervene twice to keep the tie.

‘It’s a very satisfactory result,’ said Radovic. ‘Our goal was to go in there and get points, and we did. We wanted the win, but the tie is not bad at all, especially playing against a quality team at their house.’

Northridge was playing without its starting forwards and their primary backup. Moy Gomez and Cameron Sims are out with injuries while Camilo Rojas was serving a one-game suspension after receiving a red card during the Matadors’ game against UC Riverside Oct. 5. Sims said he could be out for three more weeks and that Gomez isn’t expected back any time soon, if at all.

With the shortage on forwards, Matador Head Coach Terry Davila started midfielder Ben Cox as an attacker. The move paid off for the Matadors as Cox was the author of the visiting team’s first tying goal. The Gauchos had gotten ahead early in the ninth minute via a David Walker score, but Cox responded for the Matadors by putting away a great pass from Sunghyun Kim.

Kim’s assist, the team-leading third of the season, came in the 18th minute. Cox’s score was his second in 2008 and perhaps awoke a scorer’s instinct in him. He would like to stay at the top.

‘Hopefully,’ Cox said about becoming a permanent forward. ‘I’ve practiced there. Hopefully ill stay up there.’

‘I felt pretty good. I had to run a lot more and played a lot of minutes. I felt productive. I went into the game and scored, so I’m confident.’

The Matadors have had a remarkable stretch despite injuries and suspensions. They started it off by beating then-undefeated Sacramento State at home. Then, they tied UCLA on the road. Their next game was a defeat, but at the hands of No. 3 Creighton in overtime due to a penalty kick. Their last two matches have been conference ones and they’ve managed a win against the Highlanders and the tie at Santa Barbara, not bad results by an undermanned team that also lost beginning-of-the-season starters Devin Deld’oacute; and Rafael Garcia for 2008.

Radovic knows the team is missing some players, but doesn’t feel they’re that short-handed. Perhaps that mentality is what’s gotten the Matadors where they are thus far.

‘Every player on the team is a potential starter,’ he said. ‘Everybody is here. We’re down some players, but you have to concentrate on the game and (also) have fun. We go out there and play hard and the results come from that.’

Rojas will be back for Wednesday’s match at UC Irvine, another nationally-ranked team. The Anteaters were beat by Northridge the last time the teams met. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.