It was a tough day for the No. 12 USC women’s soccer team Friday, as it battled both the extreme dry heat and the Mexican national team. Unfortunately for the Women of Troy, both the temperature (which reached the upper 90s) and the opposing team were hot as Mexico beat USC 2-0.
Mexico controlled the ball for most of the match because its quick play and one-two balls were too fast for the Women of Troy. Senior goalkeepers Kristin Olsen and redshirt Brittany Massro played one half each for the Women of Troy, and they did their best to keep USC in the game as they came up with some big saves.
But it was two late Mexican goals, one at the end of each half, that proved to be the difference. Just as in the game against Texas A&M last weekend, USC managed to keep the ball out of its net for most of the half but was seeking the final whistle four minutes too early.
“I don’t think we dug deep enough or showed enough passion,” said senior defender Meagan Holmes. “I think that’s what it came down to because both goals were in the last five minutes of both halves.”
Coach Ali Khosroshahin started eight freshmen and sophomores with little collegiate experience in the exhibition match against Mexico. Even though USC is returning seven starters from last year’s team, Khosroshahin wanted to get some younger players playing time and give them an opportunity to show they belong on the field. But not many players impressed the coach.
“We’re very green is definitely something I walked away with,” Khosroshahin said. “There are players that got opportunities they may not get again.”
USC’s inexperience showed on the field as it tried to find some chemistry. There were times when the Women of Troy were able to string many passes together, but it was the transition from the backline to the front line where they struggled the most.
“We need to transition better. We are really having a poor time getting the ball from one end to the other,” Khosroshahin said. “I attribute it to inconsistency.”
Mexico’s forward Monica Ocampo frustrated the Women of Troy throughout the entire game. She threatened to score numerous times in the first half and, even though USC had a few shots, Ocampo and Mexico were the more dangerous team in the first half.
In fact, it was Ocampo’s goal in the waning moments of the first half that gave Mexico the 1-0 lead. Ocampo got the ball at the top of the box, dribbled around Holmes and fired the shot past a diving Olsen.
The second half was more of the same. USC didn’t create many opportunities in the attacking third and turned the ball over, letting Mexico take possession of the ball and charge at the backline without much resistance. The defense did have three new starters on the field, but they couldn’t contain the dynamic Mexican offense.
“I thought we were very, very soft defensively,” Khosroshahin said. “We just needed to win a tackle and we couldn’t do that. I tried to get players some time but it was disappointing.”
Mexico scored its second goal with just under four minutes left on the clock in the second half, as a nifty through ball by Evelyn Lopez found Tania Morales behind the defense as she slotted it past Massro for the clinching goal.
Even though the Women of Troy weren’t able to keep up with the Mexican national team, they tried to learn from the match. Freshman Kat Parker played the entire game in the midfield and saw what the Women of Troy needed to work on.
“Probably just switching sides more, finding open spaces and attacking as a group instead of individuals,” she said.
Khosroshahin knew that playing Mexico would be a tough test for the Women of Troy, and despite the problems, he took some positives out of the match.
“We don’t face too many teams that move the ball like them. We can learn from this,” he said.