The No. 2 women’s soccer team will face off No. 6 UCLA Friday night at the StubHub Center, bringing a close to the regular Pac-12 season. After a win against No. 20 Colorado and a shutout tie against Utah, the Trojans are now 15-1-2 overall and 8-1-1 in conference play. USC will take a seven-game undefeated streak into the matchup.
The 13-3-1 Bruins are coming off eight consecutive victories, the most recent being against Colorado. Sophomore attacker Ashley Sanchez played an integral role in both of the Bruins’ goals. After a Colorado foul early in the 19th minute, Sanchez launched a free kick to the left side, which helped create a scoring opportunity for redshirt junior midfielder Chloe Castaneda. The Bruins kept Colorado at bay, holding it to zero shots on goal and a 1-0 lead at the close of the half.
Colorado came out strong in the second half, creating multiple scoring opportunities with a shot that hit the post in the 63rd minute and a narrowly missed free kick in the 64th. Buffs attacker Taylor Kornieck nailed a cross in front of the left post, scoring the tying goal and bringing the score to 1-1.
In the 77th minute, UCLA’s Sanchez scored the game-winner when she stole the ball from a Colorado and launched it from close range past the Buffs keeper.
Sanchez will be the main offensive player on the Trojans’ radar heading into the game on Friday.
She leads the Bruins in all scoring categories with 23 points, 8 goals and seven assists. Sanchez has also either scored a goal or provided an assist in each of UCLA’s last eight games.
The Trojans currently have a 398-minute streak going of keeping opponents scoreless, but the defense will need to be on high alert for the Bruins’ aggressive offensive plays. Sunday’s win also marked the fourth time in USC history that the team has marked 13 clean sheets in a season.
On the offensive end, the Trojans have outscored their opponents 46-7. Their goal differential of 39 leads the Pac-12 conference.
Having outshot opponents 354-144 this year, the Trojans will need to continue working hard to control possession from the beginning in order to create scoring opportunities against the Bruins, whose goalies tail right behind redshirt sophomore Trojan keeper Kaylie Collins with a combined 41 saves.
Four of the last five wins in a USC-UCLA matchup have gone to the Bruins, including the last two in a row. The last time the two teams faced off, the Bruins took the Trojans into overtime, with Sanchez scoring the winning goal in the 91st minute. The Trojans ended up tying the Bruins for a second-place finish in the Pac-12. UCLA leads the Crosstown Showdown series against USC with an all-time record of 24-6-1.
The Trojans are tied at the top of the Pac-12 standings this season with No. 1 Stanford at 25 points each, while the Bruins follow close in second with 24 points.
In addition to playing for a chance at the Pac-12 Conference title, both UCLA and USC head into the game vying for favorable seeding in the NCAA tournament.
The Trojans are ahead of the Bruins coming in at second place on the most recent United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division I Women’s national poll with 828 total points and two first place votes, compared to the Bruins’ 679 points and sixth place ranking.
The Trojans will host the Bruins in the crosstown showdown at StubHub Center Friday at 7 p.m.