?Blacked out? Rojas delivers in last minute

Alonso Tacanga

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He had done it once before and he did it again Saturday. He doesn’t even know how he did it this time and he doesn’t care. The ball went in. Pandemonium broke out.

Forward Camilo Rojas took a long pass from Sunghyun Kim in the last play of the Matadors’ double-overtime game against Cal State Fullerton (3-11-1, 0-4-1 Big West) and put in a powerful shot past goalkeeper Trevor Whiddon’s right side to give Northridge (6-4-2, 2-0-2) a thrilling, come-from-behind 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Matador Soccer Field. The win was the Matadors’ second in conference play and allows them to keep pace with other top Big West Conference teams in the standings.

‘I honestly thought I was offsides,’ said Rojas, retelling the circumstances of the clutch moment. ‘I took a quick glance at the referee and the sideline said to keep going. I did. I felt the defender right behind me. I honestly thought (I) was going to (hit it with the) inside (part of ) the foot (to the) far post, but I blinked and kind of blacked out. I hit it with (the) outside (part of) the foot and I don’t know how it went in.’

It went in just as the Matador bench went crazy. Everyone tried to get to Rojas, who took off celebrating. There were only 24 seconds left to play.

Rojas’ score was his second of the afternoon and fourth of the season. The forward had already scored a last-minute goal once before to send the Matadors past an opponent. Rojas made an 88th-minute game-winner on Sept. 21st against then-unbeaten Sacramento State.

‘Rojas is one of our deadliest players in the box,’ said Head Coach Terry Davila. ‘I expect that from him. We keep him active, we keep him running. The guy can make plays.’

Plays was what Northridge made throughout the game, but none of them could bring enough danger to the Titan’s end of the field. Fullerton on the other side couldn’t even keep possession of the ball, but it didn’t matter. They were the ones to open up the scoring in the 16th minute and did it with their first shot on goal of the game. Michael Denny fired a low rifle from 30 yards out off a free kick that ended up in the left side of Matador goalkeeper Kevin Guppy’s back of the net.

It was stunning. A Titan team owner of a 3-10-1 record and last in the conference standings was upsetting the undermanned-but-still-favorites Matadors on the road. Rojas and Davila, who understand the concept of the Big West better, didn’t find it that astonishing.

‘Every team in the Big West is a hard team to beat. Stats don’t mean anything, you gotta bring it everyday,’ said Rojas.

‘Every team in the Big West is even. It’s a tough league. You do this league twice, there’d probably be different standings,’ echoed Davila.

And even was just what Northridge got 11 minutes later after Kim, probably the most aggressive Matador of the afternoon next to Rojas, scored on what seemed to be a cross from left to right. Kim gunned an unreachable, grass-mowing shot past Whiddon for the 1-1- tie, one the teams preserved going into halftime. The Matadors were superior, but it wasn’t showing on the scoreboard.

The second 45 minutes of the game were the same as the first. The half looked promising as CSUN had the clearer chances early. Once again, though, it would be Fullerton who’d surprise. Celso Alvarez took a bounce in stride and shot a low ball to Guppy’s left. The goalie couldn’t get to it again. The nightmare was back.

‘Fullerton’s talent is young. It’s starting to mature,’ said Davila.

Rojas woke the Matadors up in the 81st minute. Defender Robert Pate headed in a high ball over the top of Whidden to a Rojas with no challenger between himself and the goal. The forward put it in. Pate kicked it again once inside just in case and CSUN was sending the game into overtime before a team that had looked better in the final moments.

In the overtimes, Fullerton was the aggressor and more than once threatened with taking home its first conference win. The Matadors’ backline was up to the task, though, blocking most of the attackers’ shot attempts. Fullerton was going for the win and perhaps their untimely disrespect for the Matador counterattack did them in. Their defense wasn’t well-positioned and Rojas burned them. They probably deserved better, but as Davila would say: it’s not about who deserves to win, it’s about who scores.

‘It’s frustrating,’ said Titan captain T.J. Detviler. ‘We played well. Both teams had good chances, but we had that last-second breakdown and they put it away.’

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‘This is not a one of a kind situation as the media and economists would have you believe… They keep saying that this is so complicated when it is actually very straight forward. It is a confidence scam on a large scale.’

‘We were a bit tired from our pratices and recent games, but we’ll get back on track… (The regional playoffs are) in our hands, we’ve been playing well and I think we have an 80 perent chance of making it in.’