One player labeled it as heartbreaking, another one called it a choke job, Head Coach Terry Davila said it was like a cardinal sin.
There is probably a few other adjectives that can be thrown in there – tough, hindering, dooming, etc. – but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is one noun: loss.
In what has got to be a record, CSUN lost a lead in 10 seconds and was given the touch of grace in the waning moments of a 3-1 loss to UC Santa Barbara Wednesday afternoon at Matador Field. The defeat leaves the Matadors with just one point earned in their last three games and complicates their chances at making the Big West Conference Tournament.
‘You drop your guard after they score and they take it from you in the back (of the field) and go right to the core of your team,’ said Davila, explaining the lightning-quick turnaround. ‘It’s a little disheartening. I feel bad for the kids, they did a good job up to (the moment of the tying goal), but you gotta finish games.’
The Matadors were winning 1-0 after Camilo Rojas found a bounce inside the Gaucho box and somehow got the ball to the back of the UC Santa Barbara net in the first half. It wasn’t clear how exactly the goal was scored, but Rojas took credit for it. CSUN kept the lead until midway through the second half.
Gaucho star forward Chris Pontius put the equalizer after he sprung up for a ball crossed in from the right and headed it in past Northridge goalkeeper Kevin Guppy. It was a shock to many’hellip;GOAL Santa Barbara! That’s how the second Gaucho goal happened: all of a sudden. The Matadors had kicked off after the tie, Bongomin Otii stole the ball, was left on a one-one-one, and put it in under Guppy. Ten seconds transformed a confident, leading team into a discouraged loser.
‘I don’t know. It was couple of defensive breakdowns from our team,’ said Rojas. ‘They scored some lucky goals’hellip; It’s a tough loss.’
The Matadors still had 24 minutes to try and tie the game, but they weren’t able to create any clear opportunities from then on. Whether it was the dejection of the fast score reversal or the Gaucho defense putting the clamps on Rojas and the CSUN offense, the Matadors were done.
UC Santa Barbara had more chances to add to the score, but misfired on one-on-ones. Northridge resorted to committing fouls to stop its rivals. Four minutes from the end, Matador Bo Miller was shown his second yellow card of the game and was ejected for knocking down a defender just outside the box. On the ensuing free kick, Jon Curry placed a beautiful, unreachable ball to Guppy’s right post for the sentencing 3-1.
‘We tried to really take the game to them in the second half,’ said UCSB Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg. ‘Obviously, Pontius got the great goal on the head ball and it really opened it up for us.’
UCSB had nine shots on goal to Northridge’s three. Before the Gauchos tied the game, the Matadors had two chances on goal that are sure to haunt Cameron Sims and Rojas for a while. In the 50th minute Sims found himself all alone in front of UC Santa Barbara goalkeeper Trond Helge Takset but send a shot wide of the right post. Five minutes later, it was Rojas with an identical situation, but he didn’t even touch the ball. Rojas just let the pass get ahead of him and, with Tasket beat, the ball went out of bounds.
‘We had three opportunities to put the game out of reach 2-0,’ Davila said. ‘But we didn’t execute.’
Then the tie, the game-winner and the dagger came. CSUN was left with its first conference home loss of the season and in an uncomfortable position for its aspirations to qualify for the tournament. They’re now going on the road for two of their remaining three regular season games.
‘Of course every game is important,’ said Sims. ‘But now we have the urgency where we have to win. We have to play our hardest. It’s either win or go home, pretty much.’
The Matadors lost forwards Moy Gomez and Milan Radovic to injuries in the first half. CSUN returns to action Saturday at UC Riverside. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.