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.
“[We have a] young group, a lot of guys that are still struggling to find themselves, and the overall personality of our team is still taking shape, but we made great progress tonight, and I told them I was proud of them for finding a way to win the game. Young teams, sometimes they find a way to lose. For me to see this team at such an early stage dig deep in a game like that and get it done gives me a lot of hope and a lot of promise moving forward.”
Northridge committed 26 fouls to nine for Akron. The Zips were whistled just 16 times in two games against the Big West Conference opponents, which fouled 54 times.
Fullerton (2-0-1) routed UNLV, 5-1, as Kevin Venegas (Lakewood/Los Alamitos HS) scored twice and assisted an Ian Ramos goal. The Titans were up by two goals after 2 minutes, 36 seconds, en route to four first-half goals.
In other men's action:
Jordan Rover (Los Alamitos/Los Alamitos HS) scored twice, including the overtime winner, as Cal State Dominguez Hills (2-0-0) rallied for a 2-1 win over 10-man Cal Baptist (0-2-0).
In women's action:
All-American Jessica Murphy (Torrance/West Torrance HS) scored on a first-half header to lift Cal State Dominguez Hills past Cal Baptist, 1-0, in its opener.
Azusa Pacific's bid for No. 1 in the NAIA poll remains alive after Molly Lavin scored in overtime to lift the Cougars past Rocky Mountain, 1-0, in their home opener. APU outshot the Montanans, 28-4, and took 11 corner kicks.
Loren Kortizija (Costa Mesa/Marina HS) scored her fifth goal, a 79th-minute winner to lead Irvine's Concordia to a 1-0 win over another Concordia, from Portland, Ore.
Azusa Pacific 2 (Garcia-Partida 31, Bulut 59), Cal State San Marcos 0
Cal State Dominguez Hills 2 (Rover 65, 96), Cal Baptist 1 (Bastida 7), OT
Cal State Fullerton 5 (Aguero 1, Venegas 3, 26, Birt 35, Ramos 53), UNLV 1 (Salvador 14)
Cal State L.A. 3 (Arvota 19, Hess pen. 22, Bras 38), Colorado Mesa 0
Cal State Northridge 1 (Azulay 82), Akron 2 (Mattocks 25, Caldwell 106), OT
Caltech 2 (Dong 58, Sceats 86), Bethesda Christian 6 (Park 10, 31, Cho 14, Avila 40, 41, Dean 90)
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 1 (Lester 45), Carthage (Wis.) 1 (Jason 86)
Redlands 1 (Marquez 84), Rutgers-Newark (N.J.) 2 (Barrera 60, Naranjo 98), OT
UT Dallas 1 (Brooks 88), La Verne 0
Vanguard 2 (Plummer 3, O'Brien 16), Whittier 0
Azusa Pacific 1 (Lavin 95), Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 0, OT
Biola 8 (Barr 5, 27, Cooley 20, King 29, Dalla Zanna 60, Oliver 75, Starbeck 81, Lundquist 83), Great Falls (Mont.) 0
Cal Poly Pomona 2 (Wilson 5, Strawn 21), Colorado Mesa 1 (Butters 8)
Cal State Dominguez Hills 1 (Murphy 37), Cal Baptist 0
Cal State L.A. 3 (Lammers 10, Brown 49, Ohberg 53), Grand Canyon 0
Chapman 0, Emory (Ga.) 4 (Barauskas 20, McClenahan 23, 90, Feldman 40)
Concordia 2 (Hook 3, Kortizija 79), Concordia (Ore.) 1 (Orr 32)
Hope International 1 (Benson 50), Southern Oregon 3 (Carr 69, 78, Galvez 86)
Vanguard 1 (Valles pen. 74), Pomona-Pitzer 0
Whittier 2 (Shipherd 45, Irha 79), Marymount 3 (Reiser 50, Fisher 56, Christiansen 87)
Home teams listed first