Top two teams meet Thursday

Sophomore defender Jessica Haidet is one of the leaders of USC’s solid back line this season. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

The No. 2 women’s soccer team will embark on its biggest challenge of the season as the Trojans travel north to face Cal on Thursday and No. 1 Stanford on Sunday.

After shutting out Washington 3-0 over the weekend, the Trojans remain undefeated this season with a record of 8-0-1. Throughout the season, USC has dominated its opponents in almost every matchup.

The Trojans have won games by controlling possession within the midfield, and creating opportunities for their forwards to pounce. Besides Florida State, other teams haven’t been able to maintain any kind of quality possession against the Trojan midfield. Moreover, when they do get any kind of possession, they have had a hard time getting past the Trojans’ backline. The center-back pairing of senior Ally Prisock and sophomore Jessica Haidet has been posing challenges to their opponents.

USC takes on the Golden Bears on Thursday at noon. With a record of 4-4-1, Cal hasn’t had quite the same success as Stanford or USC this season; however, the Bears should not be overlooked — especially on the road.

“Any time you go on the road in the Pac-12 it’s difficult. But Cal is a very good team with the ball,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “They can pass, they can move, they are very smart with the way they move the ball. We’re going to have to be defensively very, very organized.”

McAlpine noted the Bears inconsistent performances, but he commended their passing game as one of the best in the conference. He stressed the importance of the Trojans playing their game and focusing on themselves to pull off the win.

On Sunday, the Trojans will play Stanford at 1 p.m. Like the Trojans, the Cardinal stand undefeated on the year with a record of 8-0-1. The last time the Cardinal lost a match was in August 2017 to Florida, and they have gone 31 games undefeated since. However, both teams possess a winning mentality, having been the past two winners of the NCAA tournament.

“Stanford [is] No. 1 for a reason,” McAlpine said. “They are going to be a difficult team to play. They’ve got so many [attacking personalities]. They’ve had some injuries so they are trying to figure some things out again and reorganize, but they are talent rich. [This will be] another benchmark game for us to see where we are as we press towards the end of the season.”

This game will be all about which team can take advantage of opportunities, since both teams are solid defensively with talented midfield players.

“There are going to be few chances in the game for both teams,” McAlpine said. “Both teams are good through the midfield. Both teams have good personalities, but it’s those composure moments in the box where there’s defending or attacking that are going to be the difference.”

With two talented teams, this match appears to be one of the best games of the whole NCAA season.