With just one week remaining in the regular season, the UC Riverside men’s soccer team played its final home game of the year against Cal State Northridge in hopes of earning a spot in the postseason. The Matadors currently have the lead in the Southern Division of the conference and have already secured their playoff spot. The Highlanders, however, are still fighting for the final playoff position in the Southern Division. Saturday night’s game set Riverside back a bit, however, as UCR fell with a final score of 2-1.
The first half saw no score from either side as both teams went into halftime with a 0-0 tie. The second half would prove to have more offensive rhythm as Northridge dealt the first blow to the Highlanders. After just three minutes of playing time, Northridge’s Edwin Rivas scored the first goal of the match for the Matadors on an unassisted kick to the goal. The score put the Matadors up, 1-0.
Rivas would go on to score yet again after an assist from teammate David Turcios to give the Matadors a comfortable 2-0 lead.
The Highlanders were then dealt an even heavier blow as UCR’s Jose Diaz was called for a red card after a collision with a Northridge player late in the game. Diaz exited the match and the Highlanders were forced to continue with just nine players on the field.
Head coach Junior Gonzalez commented on the play later on. “Jose has the tendency sometimes to lift his left foot when he’s going into tackles,” he explained. “He got into a bad tackle.”
Despite losing a key player, UC Riverside still battled back late in the second period. At the 2:12 mark, the Highlanders managed to get the ball close enough to their opponents’ goal to clutter the penalty area and eventually force an own goal from the Matadors. This cut the lead to just one point at 2-1.
The Highlanders rode that momentum until the final seconds of the match. Riverside put the pressure on the Matadors late in the game as the team attempted shot after shot to try to tie the game. With just under a minute remaining, the Highlanders received a corner kick and nearly managed to tip the ball through the net to tie the game. The effort was to no avail, however, as the Matadors stopped the Highlanders’ final attempts to score.
The clock eventually ran out and the Highlanders went on to lose the game, 2-1.
The Matadors managed to spoil the Highlanders’ special evening as UCR celebrated Senior Night during the match, recognizing their six graduating players.
The Highlanders have two scheduled games remaining this season. Both games will be on the road. After Saturday’s match, Coach Junior Gonzalez voiced his thoughts on this game and the remaining matches the team will have.
“I just felt we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be to get the result,” Coach Gonzalez said about Saturday’s game. “All we have to do is focus on the next two matches. We got to bring heart, we got to bring effort, we got to get the work in.”
The final playoff spot in the Southern Division is still up for grabs. The Highlanders will travel to Irvine on Halloween night and will then conclude the regular season on Nov. 3 against Fullerton in hopes earning the final spot in the postseason.