September 2, 2012

Birt Burns Rebels in Overtime to Lift Titans, 2-1

FULLERTON, Calif. – Cal State Fullerton senior Jonathan Birt finished with a goal and an assist on Sunday night, including heading home the "golden goal" game-winner in the fifth minute of the second overtime period, helping the Titans rally for a, 2-1, come-from-behind victory over visiting UNLV at Titan Stadium.

It was Birt's first goal of the year and the first victory of the season for Fullerton, which improved to 1-3 overall on the season. The Rebels, who took the early lead with a goal just 20 minutes in, fell to 0-3-1 overall with the loss.

"I'm really happy for the boys," Head Coach Bob Ammann said. "They worked so hard throughout the second half and overtime. They weren't to be denied and that is so encouraging.

"We were a different team coming out of the locker room at halftime. Results like this occur when you are determined and that was very evident after the intermission. We will enjoy the result and look to do more of the same against LMU on Friday."

The Titans dodged a bullet early in the second overtime as Salvador Bernal broke away from the Titans' defense off a long pass from teammate Julian Portugal, but his shot inched just wide to the right two minutes in to keep the teams deadlocked. That set the stage for the game winner as Mark Vasquez sent a cross in from the left side and found the head of Birt on the back post, who headed it down to the lower right corner to end the match.

Joaquin Rivas gave UNLV the early lead in the 20th minute on a nice sequence off a Fullerton turnover, working with teammate Robert Garcia on a give-and-go and finding himself one-on-one with the keeper, firing to the right side for the 1-0 lead.

Fullerton, which suffered a loss to Cornell two nights earlier on a goal in the final three minutes, then found its own late-match magic on Sunday as Jesse Escalante and Birt teamed up for the tying goal in the 87th minute. A free kick by the Titans found its way into the box where it was headed back to Escalante on the left side where the senior unleashed a rocket through traffic to the right side for the equalizer and his first score of the season, setting up Birt's overtime heroics.

Cal State Fullerton outshot UNLV, 22-15, including a 14-5 advantage in the second half of a physical game that saw the two sides combine for 34 fouls and nine yellow cards. Birt and Escalante led the Titans with four shots apiece as 12 different Fullerton players finished with shots. Bernal ended the match with five shots for the Rebels to lead all players.

After opening the season with four straight matches at home, the Titans hit the road for the next four matches beginning on Friday (Sept. 7) with a 3 p.m. kickoff at Loyola Marymount.