TULSA, Okla. -- It was a tale of two halves as the University of San Diego men's soccer team battled back for a third-straight come-from behind victory over a Top-25 opponent to advance to the Elite Eight with a 2-1 win over No. 11 Tulsa at Hurricane Stadium on Sunday evening. Sophomore midfielder Connor Brandt notched the game-winner to lead the Toreros (14-8-0) to their first Elite Eight appearance since 1992, while senior midfielder Conor McFadden scored his first goal of the season to tie it.
"It was a hard-fought victory," said USD head coach Seamus McFadden. "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," said Brandt 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 loud standing-room only crowd of 1,022, McFadden scored to tie the game in the 62nd minute and less than five minutes later Brandt knocked in the go-ahead score.
USD was outgunned in the first half as Tulsa (14-6-1) outshot the Toreros 11-3 in the first period while taking an early 1-0 lead. Tulsa, the No. 11 seed in the tournament, kept the pressure on the Toreros for the majority of the first half with a speedy offense that was able to slip past and between the USD defense seemingly at will.
Cristian Mata gave the Golden Hurricane their 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.
In the waning minutes of the first half, Ilijevski prevented another Tulsa goal when he leapt to punch a shot away from Bryce Follensbee on a one-on-one with just over a minute remaining in the period.
Whatever second-half adjustments USD made, they seemed to do the trick as 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 with a man guarding him that dribbled slowly along the goal line where it barely broke the plane for the score.
Then, 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 to be put back in for a goal by Mata before Ilijevski pounced on it to end the threat. Finally, as Tulsa was desperately trying to tie the game with an aggressive offensive push over 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. USD looks to continue its run on the road at No. 3 seed Georgetown on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10:00 am PST.