BERKELEY – The top-ranked California Golden Bears (10-1-2, 4-0-1 Pac-12) fell for the first time this season 1-0 to the University of San Diego Toreros (4-6-4, 0-3-3 West Coast Conference) Friday afternoon at Goldman Field in Berkeley. San Diego’s leading scorer, midfielder Connor Brandt tallied his fourth goal of the season in the 52nd minute to grab a win for the Toreros.
“It’s a long season, the chances of losing a game in an 18-game season are probably greater than not,” said Cal head coach Kevin Grimes. “It just happened to be today. They (San Diego) played a very good match, certainly scored an opportunistic goal and we had some great chances too, especially in the second half. We had one hit the post and had one just trickle wide, easily we could have tied it and maybe force overtime, but it didn’t happen today. Today was their day, you’ve got to tip your cap to them and move on to next week.”
The game was scoreless at halftime, with each team having a couple of chances. Cal co-captain Steve Birnbaum had arguably the best scoring opportunity of the first 45 minutes, as he got his head on a set piece by midfielder Seth Casiple at the back post in the 20th minute. Torero’s goalkeeper Michael D’Arrigo was equal to the task, saving Birnbaum’s effort.
Seven minutes after halftime, Cal goalkeeper Justin Taillole deflected a cross and Brandt collected it about 25-yards from goal. His quick-release shot snuck past a diving Taillole to provide San Diego with a 1-0 lead.
After falling behind, Cal applied a lot of pressure, creating many quality chances. In the 55th minute, midfielder Connor Hallisey found himself in a good goal-scoring area when he was put through after some good combination play. D’Arrigo was beaten by his shot, but it slammed off of the far post and stayed out, denying the Bears an equalizer. Just five minutes later, it was Birnbaum who tried his luck once more, firing a long-distance shot from about 35-yards out, but his effort hooked inches wide of the back post.
The Golden Bears threatened once again in the 69th minute, nearly leveling things at one, as midfielder Ryan Neil was played in nicely by fellow-midfielder Omid Jalali, but Neil’s shot went just wide of the Toreros’ goal.
San Diego created another opportunity on a counterattack in the 75th minute, as Brandt set up forward Keegan Smith with a pass at the edge of the penalty area, but Taillole was in good position and made the save.
The Bears continue their homestand and return to Pac-12 play on Friday, Nov. 1 at 3:30 p.m. at Goldman Field against the San Diego State Aztecs. Cal defeated San Diego State 2-1 earlier this season on the road on Oct. 10 behind a late goal by freshman midfielder Christian Thierjung.