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Northridge Grabs Lead, Loses Grip

Men's soccer: Young Matadors take lead in first half but San Diego State rallies for 2-1 victory.

September 01, 1996|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — The Cal State Northridge men's soccer team allowed a halftime lead over San Diego State to erode into a 2-1 loss in Saturday night's season opener, a development that left a scowl on the face of Coach Marwan Ass'ad.

The Matadors went down fighting, a rarity the last two seasons when they compiled a 16-17-4 record.

These new Matadors, 15 of them freshmen, were fit, creative and relentless against their Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rival. But they're also young, and it was their inability to execute a game plan that did them in against the Aztecs.

"We didn't play our game," said Ass'ad, who started seven freshmen. "We must be able to play [the ball] through our [central midfielders] but we kept going long or down the [sideline]."

Ass'ad was especially upset that stocky center midfielder Danny Ortega and speedy forward Michael Preis, both freshmen, were not more involved.

"Danny didn't lose a ball and Michael was the best player on the field tonight but we didn't give them the ball," Ass'ad said.

Despite its misguided attack and being outshot, 18-8, Northridge matched San Diego State for most of the game. Midfielders Brandon Fonseca and Luis Castro were superb and Preis continually chased down balls and pressured the Aztec defense.

Preis staked the Matadors to a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute, knocking home the rebound of a blistering shot by Fonseca that bowled over San Diego State goalkeeper Mark Rogondino.

But in the second half the Northridge defense, always a step from disaster, broke down.

San Diego State tied the game in the 57th minute when Colby Jackson took a short pass from John Browne inside the penalty area and beat Victor Lopez from 10 yards.

The Aztecs seized the lead for good in the 86th minute after Browne blasted a 20-yard shot off Lopez and Derek Drago chipped the rebound over the sprawling goalkeeper from five yards.

Despite the loss, Preis insisted there was promise in the Matadors' play.

"I'm disappointed but I'm not going home to cry," he said. "For our very first game and having so many young guys it was pretty good. Now we fix things and we move on. And we'll do that, because this team is tight already."

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