SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Brandon Zimmerman's first half goal was the difference for No. 25 Santa Clara, who opened its West Coast Conference title defense with a 1-0 home victory over Portland at Buck Shaw Stadium Friday night.
"It was quite a ways out and I wasn't trying to score, I was just trying to put the ball in the right spot," said Zimmerman about bending a free kick inside the far post from 35 yards out in the first half, which proved to be the game-winner. "That ball would have never gone in if the rest of the guys weren't making the right runs to cause havoc in front of the goal."
Santa Clara (5-1-3; 1-0 WCC) – ranked No. 25 by College Soccer News - remains unbeaten since Sept. 4, when they suffered their only loss of the season to No. 9 New Mexico. The Broncos are the reigning WCC Champions and are aiming for their sixth league title in 11 years.
Portland (5-3-1; 0-1 WCC) was on its heels for much of the first half, but rallied to generate 10 of its 11 shots after the intermission. The Pilots had entered the game leading the Broncos by one point in the preseason league standings, with the two teams owning the WCC's best records going into conference play.
"This game tells a lot about this group, I am really proud of the guys coming out and getting the job done," said Zimmerman, a senior from Pasco, Washington, who is one of nine final-year players on Santa Clara's roster. "We have a lot of guys injured and were coming off two ties, which we thought we should have won. We were able to come out here in our first game of conference, against a good team, and get the job done."
Much like Sunday's scoreless draw with Harvard, Santa Clara dominated play through the opening half Friday night against Portland. SCU had six shots to Portland's one and held a 5-0 advantage in corner kick opportunties.
"I was pleased with how we came out in the first half," said Santa Clara head coach Cameron Rast. "I was hoping we had enough to finish it, and I am glad we did. Portland is a good team. In conference play, teams know you so well and I thought (Portland) had us scouted. I was really proud of how we started the game, but you have to win it in the second half. That's where this team showed some composure and toughness."
Friday night's match marked the first of four WCC games in eight days for Santa Clara. The Broncos will now prep to host Gonzaga at 12 noon on Sunday.
Pictured above: Santa Clara's Keigo Kameya battles for possession Friday night at Buck Shaw Stadium (Photo by Denis Concordel)