USC women’s soccer finishes regular season with tough road test

If the USC women’s soccer team was hoping for an easy game after a hard-fought 2-1 loss at No. 3 UCLA, it’s playing in the wrong league.

The Pac-10 has five teams ranked in the top 25, and this weekend the No. 19 Women of Troy (12-6-0, 4-3-0) finish off the regular season as they head to Washington to face the No. 13 Cougars of Washington State today and Washington Sunday.

USC hasn’t won in Pullman since 2000 and hasn’t beaten the Cougars (13-4-1, 5-1-1) since a 2-0 victory in 2005 in Los Angeles. It won’t be easy this year, as Washington State is solid at home, posting a 4-1 record this season with its only loss coming from No. 1 Stanford.

“Going up to Pullman isn’t the easiest place in the world to get to,” coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “They are a really good side and are very organized defensively. It’ll be a really tough game for us.”

The Cougars have a formidable goalkeeper anchoring that organized defense in 5-foot-11 Meghan Berlingo. Berlingo has allowed just 12 goals in 17 appearances this season and has anchored a Cougar defense that has allowed only four goals at home.

The Women of Troy will need to capitalize on their opportunities because they might not get many of them. Last week against UCLA, USC had one goal on seven shots and they will need similar efficiency against the Cougars if they want to get past Berlingo.

“We need to get into a rhythm and connect passes early,” senior defender Meagan Holmes said. “There will be gaps opening in their formation and we need to capitalize on the chances that we get, be it two or 10.”

In a re-occurring theme, the Women of Troy came out timid in a lackluster first-half performance last Friday and trailed UCLA at halftime.

USC showed more urgency in the second half, controlled the tempo during parts of the half and tied the game. But the Women of Troy know they need to play the full 90 minutes if they want to win the game.

“We just need to show some consistency. When we play well, we play really well,” Khosroshahin said. “I think in the second half, there were spurts where we controlled the game. We are capable of controlling the game, we just need to be consistent about it.”

After the Women of Troy face the Cougars, they will have to head across the state to face the Huskies (11-4-3, 3-2-2), who are no slouches either, holding a 7-2-1 record at home.

Both of these games matter for seeding in the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve lost a few games we shouldn’t have,” Holmes said. “If we are set up the way we want to be set up for the tournament, we need to win these two games.”