SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Santa Clara University men's soccer team picked up a 3-2 victory over the University of San Diego in both teams' regular season finale on Sunday afternoon at Torero Stadium. The game was tied at 1-1 until a barrage of goals over a two minute span at the end of the second half resulted in the Broncos (11-6-2, 9-2-2 WCC) pulling out the victory.
Despite Santa Clara's second victory over San Diego (11-8-0, 9-3-0 WCC), the Toreros will claim the WCC Championship and the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. The Broncos finished second in the WCC for the second-straight year and have an outside chance of being selected as an at-large team by the NCAA when the field is announced on Monday.
The Broncos finish their schedule 6-1-0 on the road and 6-1-1 overall in their final eight contests. SCU has narrowly missed winning the WCC for the second consecutive year, placing second in the standings in both 2011 and 2012.
In the 84th minute, Santa Clara's Alex Fitschen, who had just checked into the game seconds before, took a loose ball in the box with his back to the net and executed a spinning shot that slipped past USD keeper Drew Ilijevski into the right corner of the net to put the Broncos up 2-1.
A minute and a half later, Erik Hurtado, the WCC's leading goal scorer, took a long pass from Devin Character at the right wing and fired a shot into the opposite top corner of the net to give SCU a two-goal advantage with less than five minutes remaining. It was Hurtado's 15th goal of the season.
Less than a minute later, USD's Jake Hallgrimson scored his first career goal when he controlled a ball off his chest, dribbled to find some open room and connected from nearly straight on at the top of the box to bring the score to 3-2.
The first half of action was largely uneventful with the exception of Santa Clara's first goal of the contest, which was nearly called off. The Broncos went up 1-0 on a free kick from Wes Culver in the 38th minute. Hurtado and Culver were both around the ball for the free kick when Hurtado simply tapped it to Culver, who had enough momentum to power a low shot through the USD defense. As soon as the goal was scored it appeared that offsides had been called against Santa Clara, but after a discussion, the goal stood and the Broncos took the lead.
Both teams jostled for momentum throughout the first half with neither team really taking control. Each team had just four shots apiece in the first frame.
The Broncos nearly went up 2-0 in the first half had it not been for a pair of spectacular saves by USD starter Michael D'Arrigo. Fitschen had slipped free for a one-on-one with D'Arrigo to the left of the goal but his first shot from about five yards away was stonewalled by D'Arrigo and his ensuing header was punched away out of bounds.
Coming out in the second half, the Toreros wasted little time in tying the game up. Dan Delgado was tackled in the box in the 49th minute, resulting in a penalty kick, which Delgado converted with a low shot into the right corner for his team-leading eighth goal of the year. Delgado is now 2-for-3 on penalty kick opportunities on the season.
Action picked up significantly on both sides in the second half. Santa Clara fired off eight shots in the second half, compared to USD's five. Each team had chances that didn't materialize. In the 51st minute, the Broncos had a two-on-one breakaway with Hurtado handling the ball on the right wing. It appeared Hurtado was going to pass the ball back to the trailing SCU attacker in the center of the field, but instead attempted a sliding shot that sailed high.
Later on in the second half, USD's Sergio Lopez took a header following a Torero corner kick that missed wide left by no more than a foot.
Ilijevski (9-3-0), who took over at halftime, took the loss for USD after allowing the two go-ahead goals but recorded one save. D'Arrigo tallied two saves before he left the game. Larry Jackson had one save while picking up the win for Santa Clara.