First half goals from Jordan Marada and Jamie Fink complemented a dominant defensive effort at McAlister Field on Thursday afternoon, where the USC women’s soccer team defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 2-0 to record its first shutout of the season.
The Women of Troy (5-2-1) were on the offensive from the opening kick, but struggled to convert opportunities into goals in the game’s first minutes. It appeared that USC would strike first at the 13-minute mark, when Marada found fellow senior Autumn Altamirano streaking down the side of the pitch. Instead, Florida Atlantic goalkeeper Courtney Zwetsch made an athletic save to keep USC off the board.
Two minutes later, however, the Women of Troy would finally cash in. A beautiful, long-distance loft pass from Marada found sophomore Jamie Fink in the box, who deftly redirected the ball into the net.
“[Sophomore forward] Katie [Johnson] and I were both making runs, and she drew the defense off of me a little,” Fink said. “Then Jordan Marada sent in a cross with the perfect curve.”
The Fink and Marada show was not over. With 13 minutes remaining in the first half, an Alex Quincey throw-in was deflected into the middle of the field, where Marada found the ball and delivered it into the side of the net. It was the midfielder’s second goal of the year to go with her four assists.
After halftime, it was a tale of strong defense and missed opportunities for the Women of Troy, who outshot the Owls 14 to 5 in the contest. With two minutes gone in the second half, freshman Kayla Mills found a seam down the middle of the field, but could not push a point blank shot past the FAU keeper. At the 55-minute mark, sophomore midfielder Megan Borman could not convert a penalty kick after Fink was fouled in the box. Later, with 13 minutes to play, Marada barely pushed a free kick wide of the Owls’ net.
Even with these close calls, USC never seemed at risk of a loss because of their dominant backline. Goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, who directed traffic expertly all game long, was only forced into action once. The ball simply never seemed to get that far.
Altimirano appeared to be flying all over the field, stealing possession with ease and setting up the USC offense on numerous occasions. Sophomores Natalie Donaldson and Erin Owen were also forces of nature on defense.
Even though Thursday marked the first shutout of the 2013 campaign for the Women of Troy, the backline has been consistent all season, having allowed more than one goal just once this year.
“Our backline is getting better and better every game,” USC head coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “The best part is, I can put eight or nine players out there [on defense] every game and expect the same results.”
“We are so impressed with our defense,” Marada said. “This shutout was so key, and it puts us in great position for the rest of the season.”
The Women of Troy’s offensive difficulties were not a complete mystery. The squad played without star senior midfielder Elizabeth Eddy, who sat out with an injury. Eddy leads the team with five goals and brings invaluable experience and leadership to the table.
Khosroshahin knew playing without his star midfielder would be difficult, but was careful to not place too much importance on one player.
“We weren’t as sharp as we normally are up the middle, that’s for sure,” the seventh-year coach said. “But I can’t say if that’s because of one player.”
Marada applauded her teammate’s unselfishness on the bench.
“Elizabeth still made her presence known,” Marada said. “She brought a lot of positive energy off the bench. She is still a leader off the field and gave out a lot of good advice.”
USC soccer returns to McAlister Field Sunday, where the Women of Troy will host Cal State Fullerton at 3 p.m. The Titans bring a 3-2-2 record to the contest, and boast five players who have scored at least one goal apiece. Last season, the Women of Troy defeated CSUF in a tight 3-2 contest. Sunday’s game will mark the final nonconference game for USC, who will then move into Pac-12 play.
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