Los Angeles Soccer: Loren Kortizija
Cesar Diaz Pizarro struck with 2½ minutes to play Friday night, and UC Riverside completed a comeback for a 3-2 men's soccer triumph at UC Irvine, its third victory this season over a nationally ranked opponent.
The triumph leaves the Highlanders (9-5-2), who have twice beaten UC Santa Barbara this season, in position to qualify for the Big West Conference tournament and took command of the league's title race from ninth-ranked Irvine (13-5-1) and gave it to second-place UC Davis.
UCR twice rallied from deficits, with Jose Diaz (Corona/Santiago HS) answering Cameron Iwasa's early goal and Humberto Santiago scoring in the 79th minute to pull the Highlanders even after Christian Hernandez (Palmdale/Palmdale HS) provided a 2-1 edge to the Anteaters in the 68th.
Pizarro (Chino/Ayala HS) scored his team-best ninth goal -- and school-record eighth career winning goal -- in the 88th minute.
UCI remains atop the standings with 16 points from a 5-3-1 conference record, but UC Davis (5-3), one point behind, has two games remaining, one more than the Anteaters. UCR (4-3-2) and UC Santa Barbara (4-4) also are in the race.
In other men's action:
- Luis Silva (Los Angeles/Salesian HS) scored twice and assisted two more goals as UC Santa Barbara (11-5-1) held on for a 4-3 victory at Cal State Fullerton (7-6-4) to climb into fourth place, putting the Gauchos into position to qualify for the Big West tournament. UCSB finishes its regular season with games against Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly, its closest pursuers.
- Cal State Northridge (7-7-3) settled for its second successive scoreless draw, against visiting Cal Poly, and sits fifth, one spot outside a Big West tournament berth, with two games to go.
- Paul Islas tallied twice and Fresno Pacific held on for a 4-3 victory over Concordia (12-3-1), No. 8 in the NAIA rankings, in a showdown for the Golden State Athletic Conference title. Edgar Orozco (Santa Ana/Santa Ana HS, Corona HS and Golden West College) scored twice and added an assist for the Eagles.
NORTHRIDGE -- Cal State Northridge, like Cal State Fullerton before it, took a physical approach against defending NCAA champion Akron on Saturday night. For the first 18 minutes, at least.
By then, the Matadors had racked up four yellow cards, with one defender sent off with two of them. Their showdown with the second-ranked Zips should have been over.
Instead, CSUN combined a dangerous counterattack with a superb backline performance led by Joe Franco (Monrovia/St. Francis HS) and several outstanding saves by goalkeeper Michael Abalos (San Juan Capistrano/Santa Margarita Catholic HS), taking Akron deep into overtime before finally succumbing, 2-1, in a thrilling, at times frantic finale of its Labor Day Classic.
There was a little star power in the crowd. Galaxy defender Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS), a Northridge alum, was honored before the game, and Chivas USA teammates (and Akron products) Zarek Valentin and Ben Zemanski sat a few rows below former U.S. national-teamer Brian Quinn, whose son Aodhan plays for the Zips.
Akron (2-0-1), in a little bit of rebuild mode after sending seven players to Major League Soccer this year, prevailed on Scott Caldwell's 106th-minute goal after Israeli freshman Yarden Azulay pulled the Matadors (1-2-0) even to force overtime, turning a midfield steal in the 82nd minute into a quick 1-on-1 opportunity, then chipping brilliantly into the upper-left corner.
“It's hard enough to play with 11 players against Akron, let alone 10,” Northridge coach Terry Davila said. “[Akron isn't] as mature as they were last year. We do that to them last year, you know, it would be a different story. ... We felt like we could play with them. Its just the attitude with our team. Good things are about to come for this team. Hopefully, this can be a turning point in our season.”
Northridge, which dropped their tournament opener in overtime to UNLV, went behind seven minutes after Nicholas Hamilton picked up his second yellow card, with star forward Darren Mattocks finishing from midfield leader Caldwell's feed.
The Zips rolled up huge advantages in shots (24-8) and shots on goal (14-1) and held a good deal of possession, but they couldn't put Northridge away -- and by the end, they were down to 10 men, too, with freshman defender Bryan Gallego dismissed with his second yellow card in the 83rd.
“Credit to Northridge,” said Akron coach Caleb Porter, whose team struggled against tournament winner Fullerton's physical approach in a scoreless draw in Thursday's classic opener. “They came and they fought hard and they didn't die. I think that says a lot about their group. ... I think our guys dug deep as well.