After a disappointing season that culminated in a rough loss at the hands of UCLA, USC decided to fire head soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin. Khosroshahin made headlines in 2007 by becoming the first coach to ever win a national title in his or her debut season, but would never return to that high level in subsequent years.
Athletic Director Pat Haden didn’t have to leave the Pac-12 for a replacement, hiring former Washington State coach Keidane McAlpine.
In two seasons with the Cougars, McAlpine went 26-9-6 and guided the team to two NCAA tournament appearances. A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, the 39-year-old is considered a rising star in the college coaching ranks. Women’s soccer beat writer Andrew Schultz sat down with McAlpine yesterday to discuss the state of the program.
DT: Can you talk a little about your previous experience as a head coach?
McAlpine: I was just at Washington State for the last two years. Came in there from Auburn, where I was an assistant for the previous six. I got there to a relatively good team — the year before they were ranked fourth in the Pac-12 and got to the second round by winning in the first round against Kentucky in PKs. When I got there, my job was to keep them there and elevate them a little bit. I thought we did a good job with doing that transitioning in there. In the first year, we went 12-6-2, and made it to the first round where we lost in PKs to Portland. Last year, we had a history-making season, finishing second in the Pac-12 for the first time, went 14-3-4, but unfortunately we lost in PKs in the first round to Illinois. As much as we had a great season, we didn’t go quite as far as I wanted to.
DT: I know you’ve competed against USC as the Cougars’ coach. How familiar are you with the current roster, as well as any incoming recruits for next year’s class?
McAlpine: I know the current roster pretty well. Obviously, there are some players that I’d still like to get to know better. I recruited some of them, trying to get them to go to either Auburn or Washington State, so I’m familiar enough with the roster. The incoming [freshmen], I don’t know quite as well. I know a handful of those. As soon as we get the full staff in here, hopefully next week, we’re going to get out and make sure we get our eyes on that group as well. Either way, the previous staff did a pretty good job of recruiting. There’s a lot of talent on this roster, so I feel pretty comfortable about some of the things we’re going to be able to do with them.
DT: What made you decide to accept the USC coaching job after a couple successful seasons at Washington State?
McAlpine: Personally, it’s a good move for me. Soccer-wise, USC is a hotbed of talent in SoCal. The academic reputation is flawless. Most of the things alone were enough for me, but you look at the soccer program and its history, and [the] fact [that] it’s gotten a national championship. All of those things made it very appealing for me to come and try my hand at this school.
DT: Do you think your previous experience in the Pac-12 gives you an advantage coming to USC?
McAlpine: Yeah, going into Washington State I knew some of the schools, but having played against them for two years and coached against some of the coaches in the league, [who]are very, very good, it gave me a little more comfort coming in and starting with a new program. Knowing what the expectations are, knowing what we have to do to be successful and being able to immediately take a look at the roster and go, “OK, here are some things that we’re going to have to be prepared for in order to have the success that we want here.”
DT: I know it’s early, but as of right now, what are your plans and expectations for next season?
McAlpine: Here at USC, we expect to compete for championships. It’s that simple. Regardless of past history, regardless of what the perception may be of the program today, there’s a lot of talent on this roster … The expectation is to get better. The first step is to do well in the conference, position ourselves for the NCAA [tournament] and also really try to win a national championship again. It starts in the conference, and we just have to get better every day. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we should position ourselves to reach all our goals.