CHICO, Calif. - UC San Diego got a 28th-minute goal from San Diego native Taylor Wirth and held on to pin No. 14 Chico State with its first loss of the season, 1-0, in a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) men’s soccer match Friday at University Soccer Stadium.
With its first league victory of the year, UCSD improved to 3-1-1 overall and 1-1-1 in the CCAA. Chico State, playing its 2013 home opener following four successive road wins, dropped to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in league play.
“We got some big minutes from guys coming off the bench, a great goal from Taylor Wirth, and we grinded it out,” said sixth-year UCSD head coach Jon Pascale. “It was a team effort. The last 20 minutes, (Chico State was) pushing numbers forward, and we were defending wave after wave of attacks. The guys did a great job of sticking together. We made them work for any glimpses at our goal. The couple shots they did have on goal, Josh Cohen had a couple great saves. We got contributions from everyone. Everybody played hard, everybody did their job, and grinded out a 1-0 victory on the road. That’s what you have to do.”
Junior UCSD winger Elan Gefen earned credit for the first shot of the match by either team in the 26th minute, with senior Chico State goalkeeper James Stroud saving the header.
A little more than two minutes later at 27:55, the Tritons had the contest’s lone goal, as Wirth (Escondido/La Costa Canyon HS) was on hand near the edge of the Wildcat penalty area to roof a loose clearance from the home side. The unassisted goal was the first of the fourth-year midfielder’s college career.
“Not only was it important, but it was an unbelievable goal,” added Pascale about Wirth’s wonder strike. “It was a left-footed volley struck into the upper right corner from the top of the box. Taylor has meant a ton to this team, mostly for his work ethic and ball-winning abilities. It was really great to see him rewarded on the offensive end tonight. No one deserved a moment like that more than Taylor.”
Chico State finally entered the shot column with back-to-back efforts high of the target by Joachim Gasmi and Luis Martinez right after the UCSD score.
Early in the second half, UCSD thought it had doubled its advantage, only for junior Jacob Valadez’s would-be goal to get disallowed for an earlier transgression.
Martinez was denied twice more, both times by the Tritons’ senior All-American goalkeeper Josh Cohen, in the 67th minute and then again in the 73rd from a free kick as Cohen dove toward the corner.
Chico State produced one final flurry with under four minutes left to play, but Cohen saved Russell Ellyson’s attempt and Octavio Guzman’s follow-up was blocked away.
Cohen finished with three saves for UCSD for his second shutout of 2013 and 14th of his career. Stroud had one stop for the ‘Cats, who outshot the Tritons, 8-3.
UCSD concludes a season-long four-match road stretch to open conference play Sunday afternoon at Cal State San Bernardino. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m.
Triton Notes: UCSD leads the all-time series, 9-5-2 ... The Tritons’ last win in Chico came on Oct. 12, 2008 (2-0), with UCSD 0-1-1 there since, prior to today ... Freshman Malek Bashti made his third successive start ... Freshman Riley Harbour and Gerrit van Zyll each made their second collegiate appearances as substitutes ... Friday’s match marked a ninth straight dating back to the end of the 2012 season in which UCSD held its opponent to either one goal or no goals.