No. 1 Stanford visits USC in rare Coliseum matchup
In a season where hopes have been beaten and battered by injuries, long overtime periods and missed opportunities, the USC women‚Äôs soccer team is still holding out hope for redemption this weekend in the form of a potential massive upset.
USC (5-8-3, 2-4-2) hosts No. 1 Stanford (14-1-1, 8-0-0), the defending NCAA champions, on Friday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the team‚Äôs biggest match of the season.
If they lose any of their final three matches, all of which are against ranked rivals, the Women of Troy will have essentially no shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
But if they win all three, starting with Friday‚Äôs critical showdown against the Cardinal, USC has a chance to earn a berth after missing out last year.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôd have to win out, then sit and wait on selection day,‚ÄĚ USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. ‚Äú[We have to] minimize our errors; if we do that, I think we can compete against anybody in the country.‚ÄĚ
USC will have to avoid the defensive miscues that have plagued the squad all season if it wants to keep pace with the top-ranked team in the country. The Women of Troy are ranked as the worst defense in the conference with a 1.94 goals-against average.
‚Äú[It‚Äôs been] disappointing, especially the way a lot of those results have happened off of our own mistakes,‚ÄĚ Khosroshahin said. ‚ÄúLike I‚Äôve been saying all year, the biggest opponent we‚Äôve played all year is ourselves.‚ÄĚ
The Cardinal, meanwhile, is the highest-scoring team in the Pac-12 by a wide margin, averaging 2.81 goals per game.
‚Äú[Stanford] just has great chemistry -‚ÄĒ they do whatever it takes to get the job done,‚ÄĚ junior midfielder Jordan Marada said. ‚ÄúEveryone just needs to be mentally focused the whole game and come out strong and do what they need to do. We need to finish our chances.‚ÄĚ
Unfortunately, converting on opportunities has been a problem for USC all season. The Women of Troy are third in the Pac-12 with 17.62 shots per game, but sixth in goals per game (1.50).
‚ÄúA lot of it just comes down to us having composure in front of the goal and just putting it in the back of the net,‚ÄĚ junior midfielder Elizabeth Eddy said. ‚ÄúIf we play really good team defense and make sure we stick to the game plan, we‚Äôll be all right.‚ÄĚ
After the hyped matchup against Stanford on Friday, USC hosts another ranked foe in No. 21 California (14-3-0, 7-1-0) at McAlister Field on Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Golden Bears stand second in the Pac-12 in goals per game (2.47) behind Stanford, and boast the conference‚Äôs top point scorer in forward Ifeoma Onumonu, who has 10 goals and five assists.
But it‚Äôs obvious that until the Cardinal exit the Coliseum on Friday night, the Women of Troy are only focusing on their first opponent of the weekend.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre stoked, and can‚Äôt wait to get in the Coliseum,‚ÄĚ Eddy said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a great atmosphere to play in. For me, it‚Äôs a dream I‚Äôve had since I was a child, so it‚Äôs really cool and I‚Äôm really excited.‚ÄĚ
The players have been making announcements in their classes to encourage classmates to attend the showdown, changing their Facebook profile pictures to a flyer advertising the match and the team‚Äôs Facebook page created a ‚ÄúColiseum Classic‚ÄĚ event to raise awareness about the match.
‚ÄúA lot of people support [the team] if they know about it,‚ÄĚ Eddy said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs my goal, to get more awareness.‚ÄĚ
Even though the odds are stacked against them, Khosroshahin said the Women of Troy insist they can turn their season around.
‚ÄúSpirits are high right now,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe get a chance to play against one of the best teams in the country and see what we‚Äôre capable of.‚ÄĚ
USC kicks off against Stanford at the Coliseum at 7 p.m., and the first 2,500 fans to enter the gates receive a free drawstring bag.