After an epic comeback last Sunday against the Oregon Ducks, the No. 7 women’s soccer team (8-1-1) — third in the Pac-12 — will go on the road to Tucson to play Arizona tomorrow night.
Arizona (5-3-2) — fourth in the Pac-12 rankings — last played No. 11 California on Sunday, upsetting the Bears in Berkeley. The game was a very even affair, just like the Trojans’ game against Oregon. The game was even at 0-0 until the 75th minute when Arizona took the lead via freshman forward Jada Talley’s first goal of the season. Arizona managed to outshoot the Bears in this game 16-to-13, leading in on-target shots 9-to-4, and forced the Cal goalkeeper into making eight saves. Arizona’s defense throughout the entire season has been outstanding, only allowing 7 goals in their 10 games this season and holding opponents to 10 shots per game, while at the same time producing over 14 shots per game and scoring 11 goals.
Gabi Stoian and sophomore defender Samantha Falasco lead Arizona in scoring at 2 goals each this season. Although the statistic of 11 goals scored in 10 games suggests that the Arizona offense is not prolific, they have not had to be. The solidity of the Wildcat backline has more than compensated for this lack of goalscoring prowess. The Trojans must take extreme caution in preventing Arizona from taking an early lead as the solid Arizona backline will give the Trojans trouble in trying to mount a comeback, something that is becoming increasingly common this season.
But perhaps the key player for the Wildcats is senior midfielder Cali Crisler, who has five assists to her name this season. The Trojans will have to mark her constantly throughout the game to prevent her from setting up her teammates and adding to her assist tally this year.
The Wildcats are not a team to be overlooked. Although they are not ranked, they have been extremely tough for some of the top teams in the Pac-12 and nation, with an impressive win against California and a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Stanford, with both games being on the road. Expect the Wildcats to bring this same enthusiasm and effort to the game against the Trojans as they look to knock-off another nationally ranked powerhouse.
For the Trojans, scoring will not be a problem, with 20 goals in their opening 10 games. The defense has also been solid, allowing only 7 goals, the same number as Arizona. This game will be a great battle between a prolific Trojans’ attack and a stout Wildcats’ defense, with the prevailing side providing their team with a better opportunity to win. The Trojans will have to depend on their two leading goal scorers, freshman midfielder Savannah DeMelo and junior forward Leah Pruitt — both on 4 goals — to be on top form in order to break through the Arizona defense and bring back a victory to Los Angeles.
This game is slated to be a tough fixture for the Trojans, with Arizona boasting a strong home record and only allowing 3 home goals all season. As long as the USC attack can make progress and pick apart the Wildcat defense, this game should result in a Trojan victory. With a victory tomorrow, the Trojans will improve their record to 9-1-1 and perhaps enter the top 2 of the Pac-12 women’s soccer rankings.