San Diego Clinches 2014 WCC Men’s Soccer Championship


The San Diego Toreros picked up a dramatic 2-1 road victory against the San Francisco Dons on Sunday to claim the 2014 West Coast Conference Men’s Soccer Championship. It marks the second WCC Championship in the past three years for the Toreros. Two years ago they won the title and went on a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. This is their first trip back to the postseason since then after finishing in the bottom half of the WCC last season.

The resurgence for the Toreros was no great surprise considering their preseason outlook. They struggled last year trying to replace players from their Elite Eight squad, and they had a very inexperienced team with a lot of freshmen. But those freshmen and the newcomers this year were all of a high caliber after being attracted to USD by the Elite Eight run. They have now started to develop playing alongside veterans who were a part of that Elite Eight run, and the success have been significant.

Overall it’s been an up and down season for the Toreros, and this victory was a big one to clinch the title. They headed into WCC play riding the momentum of an upset of #1 UCLA, the second consecutive year the Toreros upset a #1 ranked opponent. But they were quickly deflated with losses in two of their first three WCC matches including one to the Dons.

From there however, the Toreros got red hot and turned a wide open race into a landslide victory. They had won five straight matches heading into today and had built a commanding six point lead in the standings over the second-place Dons. Had the Toreros tied or even lost today, they still would have controlled their destiny heading into their final match. In fact even a loss today and in their final game may have still left them with enough points to clinch the title. The victory today simply makes it easy by removing any final week drama.

The Dons came into today desperately needing a win to have any chance of catching the Toreros. A loss of course clinched the title for San Diego. A draw kept them in the hunt, but a ton would have had to happen for them to have a chance. They would have needed a win in their final game, a San Diego loss in their final game, AND they would have needed to improve their goal differential by as much as 5-6 goals to pass San Diego for the tiebreaker. That’s a nearly impossible set of events, so winning today was their only real hope.

The Dons put themselves in position with a goal in the 25th minute to strike first and take a 1-0 lead. They would hold that lead until late in the game when they suffered an agonizing couple goals allowed. First, Keegan Smith equalized on a penalty kick after a Dons foul inside the box. That alone would have been enough to spoil the Dons hopes, but the Toreros finished them off with a dramatic goal by Kyle Macleod in the 88th minute just as it looked like the match would head to overtime.

Adding insult to injury, Kyle Macleod is a transfer to San Diego from San Francisco. Between that and the late timing of the goal, it was a painful end for the Dons’ title hopes. With an RPI of #45 they have a shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but they will now have to sweat it out and wait for the selection show. If they fall short, this match against San Diego will haunt them for quite a while.

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San Diego meanwhile is primed to make a postseason run once again. While they didn’t have an amazing regular season by any means, they have the same underdog look they did two years ago. When they made their Elite Eight run they hadn’t had a huge regular season either, but they used a veteran squad that wasn’t intimidated by big game situations to upset some major opponents.

This year they have a similar makeup. They have a core of players who experienced that Elite Eight run, and their quality recruits are seasoned and ready. Their confidence and calm under pressure was evident in their clutch wins over #1 UCLA and over San Francisco to clinch the WCC Championship. Both of those big wins had the same feel of the games the Toreros won on their way to the Elite Eight in which the Toreros should have been overwhelmed but didn’t crumble and produced some clutch goals. If they can stay focused and calm in the postseason, they could win some games.