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MEN'S SOCCER PREVIEW

Goalkeeper Perez Leads Matadors From Behind

September 02, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — As the last line of defense for the Cal State Northridge men's soccer team, goalkeeper Christian Perez has been kept on his toes the last three seasons. Perez made a career-high 14 saves against UCLA. A week later, he made 15 against Nevada Las Vegas.

Small wonder Perez, a senior from Moorpark High, stands to finish his career as the Matadors' all-time leader in all significant net-minding statistics.

Who ever said playing goalie amounts to standing around in front of a net for the better part of an afternoon?

"A lot of people don't realize what kind of training goes into playing in the net," Perez said. "People say, 'Oh, you just stand around back there,' but that's just not true.

"There's a lot of directing that goes on. In fact, the last year and a half I've become a lot more vocal. It's something I've learned I have to do. There are days I'll leave practice and I won't have a voice."

Perez, one of two seniors on the roster, will be further thrust into a leadership role this season. The Matadors, 8-10-1 last season, are inexperienced and have been forced to fill major offensive holes with the departures of standout forwards Mike Preis and Federico Arroyo.

Among only two players with three seasons on the varsity, Perez will serve as an on-field extension of Terry Davila, a former Northridge assistant entering his second season as Matador coach.

Davila, who replaced longtime Coach Marwan Ass'ad, continues to make his imprint on the young program. Of 23 players on the roster, only Perez remains from the Ass'ad era.

"He's a leader, not so much with his statistics but with his leadership ability," Davila said of Perez. "He's a fabulous athlete. He's 6-1 and can dunk a basketball. He has great natural instincts. But over the last six or seven months, he's become a better leader in organizing the defense, and that's the biggest thing I notice."

Perez was in place during practice this week, barking instructions to defenders during drills. As many as six freshmen are expected to start this season, with no proven scorers to replace Preis and Arroyo, who combined for 22 goals and 15 assists.

Forward William Diaz, the only other senior, had two goals last season, most among returning players.

"Collectively, we'll be a good unit, but we won't have any superstars," Diaz said. "They set a standard we're going to miss. But every year you have new players."

Davila stressed leadership if the Matadors are to excel.

"We're going to miss [Preis and Arroyo]," Davila said. "A new leader will have to emerge. We have two, William Diaz and Christian Perez, who are going to have to step up in their place."

Perez holds Northridge's career goalkeeping records of 48 games, 22 victories, 209 saves and 11 1/2 shutouts. He ranks fifth with a 1.42 goals-against average.

"As far as my responsibilities go, I like to put the fire out before it happens," Perez said. "Don't allow the other team to have the opportunity to shoot. Put it out in midfield. That's where I come in because I can see behind everybody and I can see how to defend that. That's what goes into goalkeeping."

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