UCSD improves to 6-4 overall and 5-3 in CCAA play, keeping pace with Cal State L.A. (6-1-3, 4-1-3) for third place in the CCAA South. The Eagles and Tritons both have 15 points, one point behind Cal State Dominguez Hills (7-2-1, 5-2-1) and Cal Poly Pomona (6-3-1, 5-2-1).
After sitting at 3-4 overall and 2-3 in CCAA play on September 23, UCSD has rattled off three consecutive shutout victories to make a run at a CCAA Tournament berth. The Tritons beat Cal State San Bernardino and Cal State Monterey Bay 1-0 on September 25 and 30, respectively.
"The guys have done a great job at doing what they need to do to get results. We beat San Bern' and Monterey Bay with late goals and got two goals early on today to put away East Bay," said UCSD head coach Jon Pascale. "Doing whatever we need to do to win the game has been the motto. We know if you get down early on the road on Sunday afternoon, it's going to be hard for you to come back."
UCSD wasted little time on Sunday to get on the score sheet as Andisheh Bagheri earned what appeared to be a harmless free kick near midfield 35 seconds into the match. Cory Wolfrom curled a cross to the front post off the dead ball for Sam Ball. Ball collected the serve with his right foot, turned his hips toward goal, and cracked a low left-footed shot under the goalkeeper's glove for the inaugural goal of his Triton career.
Kian Malek made it 2-0 in the 30th minute on a rebound off the crossbar. Franco Cruz created the play with a couple of creative dribbles in the middle of the field, about 20 yards out. He slid the ball to his left to Alex Portela, who cut the ball back to his right at the top of the box. Portela unleashed a cross to the back post that ricocheted off the crossbar, straight into the path of Malek. Malek used his momentum to head that ball past the CSUEB goalkeeper.
"We talk about being competitive every play and every minute," said Pascale. "As long as we stay in-tune to what is going on, we're going to have a pretty good chance."
Evan Walker scored the final Triton goal by finishing a one-on-one with the CSUEB goalie off a through ball from Alec Arsht. Like Ball, Walker's goal was also the first of his UCSD career. The dish marked Arsht's second assist of the weekend.
"Our forwards can score in bunches. Getting those first ones to break the ice, I think now they can relax a little bit," said Pascale. "They tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves to score, and scoring is not easy in this sport. Now that they have one I think they'll relax in front of goal and get some more. "
Jesse Brennan made six saves in goal for the Tritons, coming up big to keep the clean sheet on a rocket by Robin Patton 10 minutes from full-time. Brennan is 3-1 since taking over the starting role against Cal State Dominguez Hills on September 23.
"I think Jesse Brennan made a lot of big saves today, more than I would have liked to see. The back line is good, they've been the strength of our team all year and it has continued to show the last couple of games," said Pascale. "Hopefully they'll continue to play at a high level. I really think we're going to have to get better on both sides of the ball to really make a run at this."
The Tritons will have their final road trip of the season next weekend against Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus on Friday and Sunday, respectively. UCSD will return for a six-match home stand to end the regular season, starting October 14 against Cal State L.A.