AZUSA, Calif. - Senior striker Uly de la Cal knocked in the rebound of teammate Kiefer Cooksey's saved shot to give the University of California San Diego a thrilling 2-1 overtime triumph over Azusa Pacific University in non-conference men's soccer action Thursday night at the Cougar Soccer Complex.
With the huge road victory, UC San Diego remained unbeaten at 2-0-1 on the season. Azusa Pacific, of the Pacific West Conference (PacWest), stayed winless at 0-3 following its home opener.
The Tritons were the complete aggressors in the overtime period, coming agonizingly close on several occasions to grabbing the sudden-victory goal. Finally in the 97th minute, Cooksey, a junior transfer from Oxnard College, took a hard left-footed shot from the left diagonal that APU goalie Nathanael Linquist saved but couldn't handle. The ball sat right in front of the charging de la Cal, who banged his close-range effort into the upper right netting to end the game.
Earlier, UCSD found itself an out-of-the-blue first scoring opportunity off a de la Cal throw-in and piece of bad judgement by the APU center back, but senior playmaker Steven Ortiz lifted his shot over the crossbar in just the third minute.
Ortiz didn't wait long to make up for that miss, grabbing his first of 2017 to put the Tritons in the ascendancy on a beautifully-struck half-volley. Redshirt junior right back Jeff Powers played a cross from the right that came off the head of an APU player, and de la Cal expertly held off his own defender to nod it down. One bounce, and Ortiz settled with his thigh before cracking his right-footer from straight on just outside the penalty box and into the upper right.
Moments later, it was almost 2-0 in similar fashion, as senior winger Zachary Lagotta (San Diego/Cathedral Catholic HS) crossed from the right, de la Cal headed down, and Ortiz blasted his left-footed shot off an opponent and away. UCSD held a 6-1 shot advantage for the first 45 minutes.
APU matched UCSD's early first-half goal with its equalizer within four minutes of the second-half whistle. Arturo Astorga and Kaleb Armbrust combined on a clever give-and-go down the right wing, with Astorga sprinting into the penalty area on the right diagonal and shooting low into the bottom left for his first this season.
The goal was the first allowed by the Tritons in 2017 after 248:31 of shutout soccer.
With minutes left in regulation, Powers sacrificed his body to turn away a dangerous right-sided cross around the penalty spot, staying down for a couple of minutes but remaining in the contest. Seconds later, Ortiz stole the ball on the left edge of the box and played Jonathan Sabouri toward the middle, but the freshman's right-footed shot was easily gathered by Linquist.
Freshman Pedro Enciso (Vista/Rancho Buena Vista HS) had one save in goal for UCSD. Linquist, like Enciso a second-year freshman, wound up with four stops in his debut for the Cougars. The Tritons finished with a commanding 19-3 bulge in shots taken, including a 7-0 whitewash in the overtime.
Back to the overtime, UCSD was entirely unlucky not to have capped it sooner, as Ortiz's point-blank shot in the 92nd minute went directly at a defender, and his rebound attempt deflected off Christian Cordell before landing harmlessly in Linquist's lap. That was after de la Cal sprung Cordell down the right flank, with the junior winger doing well to reach the end line before passing it to Ortiz. Cooksey's left-footer in the 94th, was likewise blocked away, that one to a corner kick.
Cordell was instrumental on the decider, tapping a loose ball forward right at the midway line and sprinting up the center of the park. His pass forward got caught up on the back of Sabouri's legs, but found its way out to Cooksey.
This was the fourth straight year in which these teams have faced off since APU moved into the NCAA Division II, and all four now have gone into overtime. The previous three, in fact, were all double-overtime affairs. UCSD is 2-1-1 in those matchups with two successive wins. All physical battles, this one featured seven yellow cards, four for the Cougars and three for the Tritons.
True freshman Jordan Karam (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS) made his college debut off the bench due to some injury shuffling, coming into the holding central midfield position half an hour in, and impressed enough to finish the second period and remain on the field into the overtime, totaling 52 minutes.
UCSD returns home to take on another PacWest foe in Concordia Irvine (1-2) this Saturday night, Sept. 9. Kickoff at Triton Soccer Stadium on North Campus in La Jolla is set for 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Triton Notes: UCSD now holds a slight 12-11-2 edge in the all-time series ... The Tritons are an undefeated 6-0-15 over their last 21 overtime contests, since a 1-0 double-overtime home loss to Azusa Pacific on Sept. 20, 2014 ... True freshmen Brett Jones (Mission Viejo/Laguna Hills HS) and Jonathan Sabouri (Carlsbad/San Dieguito HS Academy) earned their first collegiate starts on the left side of midfield and at forward, respectively ... Fourth-year senior left back Nolan Mac captained the side in the injury absence of fifth-year senior forward Malek Bashti ... The assists on the Steven Ortiz goal were Jeff Powers' team-best second and Uly de la Cal's first for 2017, the latter having led the squad with eight a year ago ... Ortiz scored once in his first season with UCSD in 2016 ... de la Cal had also scored in UCSD's previous match at APU, from the penalty spot in the eighth minute of a 1-1 draw on Sept. 10, 2015.