USC can’t overcome stifling Bruin defense, loses 2-1

Kristin Olsen came up big for the USC women’s soccer team.

She just couldn’t do it all.

On a night when offensive attacks were few and far between for USC, the Women of Troy couldn’t stop UCLA’s star-studded frontline as they fell 2-1.

Can’t do it all · Goalie Kristin Olsen did all she could to stop the UCLA attack, but the Women of Troy offense couldn’t stay in the game. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Can’t do it all · Goalie Kristin Olsen did all she could to stop the UCLA attack, but the Women of Troy offense couldn’t stay in the game. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

No. 3 UCLA (15-2-1, 6-1-0) outshot No. 18 USC (12-6-0, 4-3-0) 19-7 Friday night in Westwood, and if it wasn’t for the play of senior goalkeeper Olsen — who had eight saves, many of them diving stops — it might have been worse for USC.

Olsen almost saved the Bruins’ game-winning goal in the 78th minute. UCLA’s freshman midfielder Chelsea Cline put a ball in behind the Women of Troy’s defense in a transition that senior Lauren Cheney collected and blasted past Olsen from six yards away for the game winner. Cheney appeared to be offside, but the linesman kept his flag down.

“It was a great shot, and I got a touch on it,” Olsen said. “It’s the worst feeling to get a touch on it and not save it.”

UCLA’s goal came just five minutes after the Women of Troy capitalized on great build-up play to equalize.

Junior defender Karter Haug started it off by playing a ball down the sideline for sophomore Ashley Freyer. Freyer ran onto it and passed it to freshman forward Samantha Johnson, who took it to the goaline. Johnson then passed the ball in front of the goal to freshman Courtney Garcia, who used her body position to slide and knock the ball past the goalkeeper.

“Garcia came in on the left side for us and gave them some problems,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “They had to move people around to try and handle that. Garcia showed up again, she’s been missing for a few games, and we’re happy that she came out, finally.”

The Women of Troy overcame a sluggish first half to bring the game level. The Bruins, with US National team member Cheney and speedy sophomore forward Sydney Leroux up top, came at the USC defense time and again, but they were turned away by Olsen.

On the flip side, USC failed to mount any significant attack in the first half, and it was UCLA who broke through in the 37th minute.

The Bruins took a short corner kick that Jenna Belcher played into the box. Nobody got a head onto it, and the ball bounced past Olsen into the goal.

“The first half, I think we came out real timid, real nervous, and we didn’t do anything we normally do,” Khosroshahin said.

USC looked better in the second half as it started spreading the ball wide. At halftime, the Women of Troy made it an objective to connect five passes in a row instead of trying to dribble at the defender. It worked as USC came to life in the second half and took it to UCLA.

“If we could get five passes, we knew we could get an attack,” Garcia said. “So once we got those five passes, we saw we got way more shots and the passing was working.”

Khosroshahin also moved junior outside midfielder Alyssa Dávila into the center mid-position, which made a difference. From there, the Women of Troy were able to attack the center and use combination play to threaten the Bruins’ defense.

“People started moving and wanting the ball. I thought [Dávila] came in and settled us down in central midfield,” Khosroshahin said. “It’s simple — we just need to be more consistent about it and believe we can beat anyone in the country, and we showed that in the second half.”

USC has two more games remaining during its regular season before NCAA tournament play begins. USC isn’t a surefire lock to make the tournament, so it will use this experience to improve. The Women of Troy said they know that if they meet UCLA down the road, they will be ready.

“We’re not quite done yet. It’s not the result we want, especially against [UCLA], but we’re going to get better from this experience. I give you my word,” Khosroshahin said.