FULLERTON, Calif. – After dominating possession for a majority of the match, persistence finally paid off as Fullerton's Jacob Perez netted his first career goal in the 76th minute to give the Titans a 1-0 victory over UC Riverside on Saturday night at Titan Stadium.
"It's a great win for our team against a very good team and one that has done very well in our conference," coach George Kuntz said. "We felt like we can compete in this league and our guys proved it tonight. We were much more balanced defensively and the attack was a lot more organized than in past games and we've just worked to get a little bit better each game. I'm just proud of these guys."
With the win, Fullerton moves to 6-8-1 overall and 2-3-1 in conference play. The Titans collected their first Big West victory since defeating Cal Poly, 2-1, at Titan Stadium back on Sept. 29.
Coming off a draw where the Titans produced 26 shots, Fullerton's attack didn't miss a beat as they finished the first 45 minutes with 12 shots to UC Riverside's (9-5-1, 4-1-1) two.
Ronaldo Pineda got his first start since Sept. 4th against Santa Clara and made an immediate impact for the Titans as he had a few shots early but the sophomore's efforts both sailed high.
Rei Dorwart continued his stellar play at forward and possibly had the best chance of the first half for Fullerton. The freshman launched a power-strike from the top of the box but the shot went just wide to keep the match scoreless.
Titan midfielder Robert Coronado also had a couple shots in the half as the junior put a shot on goal in the 22nd minute but Riverside's goalkeeper Vincent Morales made the save.
In the second half, the Titans made a few subs that included Perez coming on to the pitch for Big West leading goal scorer Alex Heilmann in the 63rd minute.
Perez almost put up an incredible chip shot that almost found its way into an empty net, but one Highlander got in the way and cleared the ball to prevent a Fullerton goal.
However, the walk-on senior got his chance in the 76th minute as Pineda had a strong effort from the left side of the box but Morales batted it down.
Luckily, the ball fell right in front of Perez and the senior kicked right into the net to give the Titans a 1-0 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining.
"Coach had the idea of getting down the flank and exposing the defenders and making them commit and breakdown the team," Pineda said. "The team (Fullerton) performed well as every guy did his part and everyone did extra. They didn't just keep the ball, they made space for the next guy so when the next guy had it they had multiple options."
UC Riverside made it interesting in the 87th minute as a foul in the box lead to a penalty kick for the Highlanders.
Tyler Miguel lined up for the penalty and slowly made his run to the ball but Titan goalkeeper David Elias read the shot the whole way as he dived to his right to make an unbelievable save and keep Fullerton ahead.
"I trusted David," Pineda said. "I told him on the field after the game I didn't need God because I trust you and you are my teammate. Coach told us look to your left and look to your right, that's the guy you're going to trust and you're going to love and I trusted David because I love him and this team."
After a couple fouls, the Titans killed some clock and held on to defeat the Highlanders, 1-0, and hand them their first conference loss of the season.
"Great goalkeeping by David (Elias) to keep us in the game at the end," coach Kuntz said. "Jacob Perez is a talented skillful student athlete that is a great example of persistence in our program after a couple of trials with our team made it this year."
Up next for Fullerton is a match with UC Irvine on Wednesday at Titan Stadium. The Titans will take the pitch against the Anteaters at 7 p.m. PT as they continue Big West play.
For more information on the Fullerton men's soccer squad, follow our Twitter page (@CSUFMensSoccer) and like our Facebook page (Cal State Fullerton Men' Soccer).