Women’s soccer returns home for conference games

CUTOUTThe women’s soccer team will face Utah on Friday before taking on Colorado on Sunday.

The Women of Troy return to McAlister Field for these two major conference games after dominating Oregon on the road last weekend. Not only is the team undefeated on their home turf this season, but it also boasts a plus-five goal difference in home games.

Utah is on a three-game skid after coming up empty against a trio of ranked opponents. The Utes lost back-to-back home games to Washington State and Washington before dropping a game at Cal.

Though three straight losses may sound unimpressive, the Cougars, Huskies and Golden Bears were all ranked in the top 25 when they beat the Utes. Utah faced a tough three-game slate and narrowly lost all three games. However, it will not get any easier for the Utes, as the Women of Troy will be a handful to contain on Friday.

Like Utah, Colorado is struggling at the moment. The Buffaloes are winless in the month of October, but are still a quality side. A few seniors have graduated, but this is the same program that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, barely losing to UNC in the postseason.

USC’s engine in midfield is composed of Morgan Andrews, Nicole Molen and Mandy Freeman. Their possession-oriented style gives opposing defenses headaches. The three-headed monster in the middle is calm and fluid on the ball and exceptionally organized on defense. The Women of Troy’s defense is difficult for teams to break down because of their organization and discipline.

By playing with three in the middle, as opposed to four in the common 4-4-2 formation, USC head coach Keidane McAlpine needs his midfield players to hold themselves accountable at all times. In other words, backtracking is a necessity, and concentration lapses must be avoided.

The three-in-midfield approach is so effective for McAlpine’s squad because Andrews, Molen and Freeman eat up ground out there. Because the midfielders effortlessly cover ground all over the pitch, USC wears down its opponents as the game goes on.

Passes are crisp. Heads are on swivels.

All three midfielders exhibit tremendous pace and play with power. Because USC gets such production out of its midfield players, it can command games from the onset and dictate the pace of play. The Women of Troy are on the front foot in games more often than not.

USC has established itself as an elite team capable of making a national title push, and given the visitors’ uphill battle at the moment, the odds lean heavily in favor of the Women of Troy.

Teams do not like losing four straight games, and sometimes that frustration can develop into a newfound fire for a team. USC must proceed with caution against the Utes. Also, Utah is a strong road team, having earned four wins away from home this year.

The same goes for the Colorado game. The Buffs may not be trending in the right direction at the moment, but they know how to find the back of the net. They lit up the scoreboard against New Mexico and Villanova, winning 4-0 and 3-0, respectively.

USC hosted Utah and Colorado last year, beating the Utes 2-0 but losing to the Buffs 1-0.

USC is 10-4-1 this season and has serious momentum heading into these upcoming Pac-12 South contests. The Women of Troy have clawed their way back into the top-25 NCAA rankings and are really hitting their stride as the postseason approaches.