Looking to climax its season in only its fourth game, USD's soccer team struck fear into No. 2-ranked UCLA Tuesday night at Torero Stadium before falling, 2-1, in overtime.
After barely missing a go-ahead goal with seconds remaining in the first overtime, the Toreros stood silent when UCLA's Eric Page blasted a shot from outside the penalty area that glanced in off the crossbar six minutes into the second overtime period.
And the prestige that can come to a program for merely tying a nationally ranked team disappeared, just as one of USD's top forwards did a year ago.
Phillip Button, who scored eight goals in his two years at USD, re-emerged at UCLA this season--and as a critical offensive weapon.
"I just decided to move on," Button said of his decision to transfer. "I had always dreamed of going to UCLA--they have a very, very good program and they know how to win. They score at clutch times and that's why they make it to the Final Four."
Button quieted the crowd that used to cheer for him 21 minutes into the game. After taking a centering pass from Sean Henderson in the left side of the box, Button, who graduated from The Bishop's School in La Jolla, redirected the ball just inside the far post to give UCLA a 1-0 lead.
"That felt great," Button said. "There was a lot of pressure on me to prove my decision to transfer was valid."
Button, who has started the past three games, has scored a goal in each of the Bruins' past two games.
Before Button's goal, USD had outshot the Bruins, 3-1. The numbers were an accurate indicator of which team played more aggressively and won the majority of loose balls.
"That didn't surprise me at all," Button said of USD's fortitude. "I remember my last year here, we tied UCLA, 3-3. I remember the intensity (USD) had that game; how pumped up we were to play UCLA, and I knew tonight USD would give us a game."
But Button's goal punctured the Toreros' emotional high, an important asset for an unranked team going against a national power.
In five previous games, UCLA (6-0) had not allowed a goal, thanks in large part to goalie Brad Fiedel, returning to UCLA after summering in Barcelona with the U.S. Olympic team.
But the Toreros (3-1) were having trouble even getting the ball in on goal. They were whistled offsides nine times during regulation; UCLA four times.
USF finally got it right 65 minutes into the game as Roger Lindqvist, from Sweden, sent a long pass down the middle of the field. Chugger Adair was at the top of the box to field the pass, and he quickly put it forward to the on-rushing Doug Berry, who one-touched the ball past Friedel.
USD Coach Seamus McFadden thought his side was equal to UCLA.
"I thought we were just as good," he said. "I don't think they deserved to win."
USD outshot UCLA, 13-11, but still is winless in 10 games against UCLA. The 2,900 at Torero Stadium were the third largest soccer crowd in USD history.