TULSA, Okla. – San Diego battled back for a 2-1 victory against Tulsa on Sunday to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. Sophomore midfielder Connor Brandt notched the game-winner to lead the Toreros (14-8-0) to their first quarterfinal appearance since 1992.
“It was a hard-fought victory,” USD head coach Seamus McFadden said. “They’re a very good team. I was very impressed with them, particularly in the first half. We came out flat, and we were just not our usual selves. But credit to them. Their forward, that Mata kid, is as good a forward as I’ve seen in the country.”
“It was kind of unfortunate to go down 1-nil,” Brandt said after the win. “But in the first round, we went down to [Cal State] Northridge 1-nil. We’re used to being there. Same with [the] UCLA [match], we went down 1-nil, and we came back and got the victory. So that’s three games in a row we’ve been down and found a way to get the `W’.”
In front of a crowd of 1,022, senior Conor McFadden scored to tie the game in the 62nd minute. Less than five minutes later, Brandt knocked in the go-ahead score.
USD was outgunned in the first half as No. 11-seeded Tulsa (14-6-1) outshot the Toreros 11-3, while taking an early 1-0 victory.
Cristian Mata gave the Golden Hurricane its first goal of the game when he broke away with the help of a long pass from Omar Mata, beating USD keeper Drew Ilijevski on a one-on-one.
The Toreros started to pick up the offensive momentum as the first half wore on. Julian Ringhof just missed tying the game when his line drive header off a corner kick sailed just wide right at the 25:00 mark.
After struggling to find a shot in the first half, the Toreros came out with all the offensive momentum after the intermission. Brandt had a pair of good looks in the early minutes of the second half but just missed.
In the 62nd minute, McFadden dribbled around the far right wing along the end line and attempted a shot that dribbled along the goal line and barely broke the plane for the score.
In the 67th minute, Patrick Wallen made an overhead, behind-the-back pass that found Brandt one-on-one with Tulsa keeper Mark Pais. Brandt lofted a shot over Pais that bounced into the empty net for the game-winner, giving Brandt his third goal in three NCAA tournament contests.
The Toreros matched the Golden Hurricane with eight shots apiece in the second half, with most of Tulsa’s shots coming in a flurry in the final minutes.
Ilijevski turned in a number of great saves to help preserve the win for USD. In the 60th minute, with USD trailing 1-0, Ilijevski deflected a shot at close range that looked like it was going in for a goal by Mata before Ilijevski saved it. Finally, as Tulsa was trying to tie the game with an aggressive offensive push during the final three minutes, the Golden Hurricane hustled for a last-minute corner kick with everyone in the box. Ilijevski stonewalled the Tulsa shot attempt to seal the victory as time expired.
This was the first-ever meeting between USD and Tulsa.
The Toreros have now won all three tournament games by coming from behind against ranked opponents.