Women’s soccer returns home for Colorado clash

Austin Paik | Daily Trojan

The No. 6 women’s soccer team (10-1-1) returns to Los Angeles fresh off a pair of victories against Arizona State and Arizona last week, and the Women of Troy look to continue their excellent start to Pac-12 play Friday night against Colorado.

Colorado (7-4-3) last played Sunday afternoon at home against No. 2 Stanford, losing 3-0.  The Cardinal steamrolled the Buffaloes, outshooting the hosts 26-4 and putting eight shots on target to the Buffaloes’ one.  Stanford controlled the game from the start, with the Buffaloes’ first shot coming in the 26th minute and the second just before halftime, in the 42nd minute.  Colorado could not find an answer for Stanford, which currently sits atop the Pac-12 standings with five wins in five games (USC is currently tied for second with UCLA on 13 points).

The Buffaloes are in a slump right now, riding a two-game losing streak and owning a 0-3 record against ranked Pac-12 opposition this season.  In this spell of bad form, Colorado has conceded 6 goals without cracking the scoresheet once.  Though the Buffaloes have scored 21 goals in 14 games this season, 12 of those scores came in the preseason against Denver and UC Riverside, respectively — both teams are currently unranked and under .500.

Freshman forward Marty Puketapu and sophomore midfielder Taylor Kornieck lead Colorado in scoring with 5 goals each.  Senior midfielder Becca Rasmussen has been a creative threat, contributing five assists this season.  The Trojan defense will look to have all three marked and accounted for at all times during the match in order to cut off the Buffaloes’ main offensive weapons.

The Colorado defense will present more of an issue for USC: The Buffaloes’ backline has conceded just 10 goals in 14 games this season with senior Joss Orejel, who has started all 13 games this season, leading the way. Fortunately for the Women of Troy, they are not struggling for goals at the moment, with four players all on 4 goals this season, including freshman midfielder Savannah DeMelo. The Trojan defense has also proved just as stout as Colorado’s so far this fall, allowing 8 goals in 12 matches. With its front and back lines in sync and sporting an undefeated record at home, USC will look to extend its win streak to five against Colorado.  But the team’s number of come-from-behind wins has been a troubling theme this season: Five of the Women of Troy’s last seven wins have come after they conceded the first goal. Against teams with a solid defense, like Colorado, falling behind could prove costly, and chasing the game opens up the field and allows more room for an opponent counterattack.

A win on Friday evening would not only boost USC’s home record to a perfect 5-0, but it would also, more importantly, give the team a chance of cracking the top five in the United Soccer Coaches Poll and possibly leapfrog Stanford into first place in the Pac-12. The Women of Troy kick off against the Buffaloes at 4 p.m. at McAlister Field.