NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -- Despite holding a 17-7 advantage in the shot column for the match, the Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team could not dent the back of the net on Wednesday night, falling to host Cal State Northridge, 1-0, in a clash of the top two teams in the Big West Conference's South Division.
The loss ends the Titans' three-match winning streak, moving them to 7-11-1 overall and 3-5-1 in league play. Fullerton remains one point ahead of UC Riverside for the final playoff spot from the South Division after the Highlanders handed UC Irvine a 4-3 overtime loss on Wednesday. Fullerton and Riverside battle in the regular season finale on Saturday night (Nov. 3) at 7 p.m. at Titan Stadium.
The Matadors, who have already clinched a spot in next week's Big West Tournament, improves to 13-5 overall and 7-2 in league play.
"I'm proud of our performance," Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "Sure, we lost, but I felt like we dominated the match from the onset against a nationally ranked team. We just couldn't find the back of the net tonight."
Beto Velasquez's eighth goal of the season in the 36th minute stood up as the only score of the match as Northridge weathered a barrage of Fullerton attempts on the night. The Titans outshot the Matadors, 9-2, in the first half and finished with a three-shot advantage in the second 45 minutes, but were denied by Northridge goalkeeper Michael Abalos, who finished with six saved to record the shutout.
Spencer Johnson finished with a match-high four shots, including one just two minutes in that was gobbled up by Abalos after bouncing in on frame. Fullerton's first three shots were saved by Abalos in the first six minutes and the Titans took the first eight shots of the match before Velasquez had an attempt blocked in the 34th minute, just moments before scoring the only goal of the game.
Following a Fullerton foul, Velasquez took a free kick from the top left corner of the box and curled it into the top left corner past goalkeeper Bryan Escalante for the 1-0 lead. Four minutes later, Ian Ramos had a volley attempt go wide left as the Matadors took a lead into the locker room at the break.
"We got beat on a well-taken free kick which was one of the few chances we had," Ammann said.
Ritchie Gonzalez had two solid second-half chances to tie the match as his diving header in the 75th minute just missed to the right from six yards away and he forced Abalos to make a diving stop on a shot through traffic in the 85th minute to keep the match scoreless. A minute later, Jonathan Birt had a shot from distance on the left side defelected in on net, but smothered by Abalos.
Fullerton's offense applied pressure all night, whistled for five offsides in the match -- three of those coming in the second half.
"Even with the loss, we are still in the driver's seat," Ammann said. "Sure we could have qualified tonight had Riverside lost but, in life, very few things worth anything are handed to you. Saturday, we'll see how badly we want to play in the postseason."
NOTES: Fullerton's loss on Wednesday marked the first time the Titans had been shutout since a scoreless draw against UC Santa Barbara on Sept. 30... Wednesday night also marked Fullerton's eighth one-goal loss in 11 defeats in 2012.