CARSON, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's soccer team rallied from a 1-0 deficit over the final 10:22 to stun No. 19 Cal State Dominguez Hills, 2-1, in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) match at Toro Stadium on Friday evening.
With the huge victory in its first conference road test of 2017, UC San Diego improved to 4-1-2 overall and 2-1 in the CCAA. In dropping its first conference match of the year after a big road sweep during the opening weekend, Cal State Dominguez Hills fell to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in league play.
Both goals of the improbable rally, after the Tritons had been outshot 12-2 in the first half and finally gone down a goal shortly after the hour mark, came from senior captains in fifth-year UCSD student-athletes Nolan Mac and Malek Bashti.
The Tritons equalized in the 80th minute. Dangerous on senior Uly de la Cal's long throw-ins all evening, this one from the left was headed up into the air on the near side by strike partner Bashti. Junior Matt Merrill took it down with his head to around the left edge of the six-yard box, where Mac needed one touch to steady and smashed his left-footed shot off the crossbar and in for his team-best third goal of the season. The left back had not scored over his first three years in a UCSD shirt. Bashti and Merrill were awarded assists. For Merrill, it was a first collegiate point.
In the 86th minute, freshman Brett Jones lofted a left-sided corner kick to the far post that senior Steven Ortiz sent back across the middle. Sophomore Jonathan Stoop then attempted a header shot, but it was cut down by a defender and the match referee whistled for handball and a resulting penalty kick. Bashti picked the perfect time to notch the first goal of his final collegiate campaign, calmly going right-footed into the bottom right corner for a sudden 2-1 advantage.
UCSD was able to see the game out from there for an enormous three points.
"It took an incredible team effort to get the result tonight," said 10th-year UC San Diego head coach Jon Pascale, who earned his first victory in Carson. "The team showed a lot of maturity by staying patient and scoring two late goals after conceding the opener."
Indeed the Tritons are now 1-5-2 in Carson under Pascale, and 2-10-3 there all-time since the series began in 2000. Friday marked UCSD's first win at CSUDH since a 2-1 triumph over the then-third-ranked Toros in a 2003 CCAA Tournament semifinal.
The hosts had the better run over the first 10 minutes with several decent chances. UCSD countered around the seven-minute mark with a solid run down the right side by senior winger Zachary Lagotta (San Diego/Cathedral Catholic HS), dribbling past two defenders before his final maneuver inside the penalty area was lacking.
Moments later, the Tritons almost got a gift. Toro goalkeeper Chase Gentry left the ball exposed just inside the left end line while attempting to corral it, and junior Kiefer Cooksey pounced, only to hit the side netting with his narrow-angle effort. In the 17th, Cooksey capitalized on a poor pass by the opponent and rumbled into the area on the left diagonal, before passing to Ortiz, whose shot was blocked away.
UCSD dodged a huge bullet in the 58th minute as Leonardo Nogueira's left-sided cross was headed off the crossbar by Kian Meyer, with the rebound remarkably nodded right off the bar again by teammate Gilberto Rocha.
Cal State Dominguez Hills finally found the opener in the 62nd minute. Nogueira's shot was saved by freshman goalie Pedro Enciso, but not handled cleanly, and Juan Hernandez was able to pick up the loose ball and tuck it home for his fourth of 2017.
Junior Christian Cordell had a good chance to level matters in the 65th, directly off de la Cal's long right-sided throw-in, but it was an easy pickup in the end for Gentry.
After taking that shock 2-1 lead, UCSD actually could very well have clinched the points within 80 seconds. Freshman forward Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy) sent Bashti in on goal one-on-one on a counterattack, but that attempt sailed wide of the right post to drag the drama out over the full 90 minutes.
Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) made three saves in goal for UCSD. Gentry had one for the Toros.
The Tritons make a second trip to Los Angeles this Sunday, Sept. 24, taking on another incredibly-tough foe in Cal State LA (7-1, 2-1 CCAA) at 2 p.m.
Triton Notes: The result marked a second straight win for UCSD over Cal State Dominguez Hills after a 3-0 shutout in La Jolla last season ... CSUDH still has a commanding 17-7-6 edge in the all-time series, but after posting a winless 0-6-2 mark against the Toros in the first eight meetings under head coach Jon Pascale, the Tritons are 4-2-2 over the last eight matchups with the 2000 and 2008 NCAA Division II national champions ... UCSD is an unbeaten 2-0-1 on the road in 2017 ... The goal was the eighth of Malek Bashti's college career, first from the spot, and fifth winner ... Nolan Mac did not score in his first 35 games as a Triton, and has three goals in his last six ... In 2016, UCSD turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory on seven occasions, with four of those away from home, including the 2016 CCAA Tournament final.