USC looks to keep pace in Pac-12

Ali Khosroshahin insists that the USC women’s soccer team has been playing “must-win” games seemingly for weeks, but with conference play heating up, that is especially true now.

Scoring · Junior midfielder Jordan Marada, a transfer from Saint Mary’s College, leads USC in points with three goals and five assists. – Joseph Chen | Daily Trojan

After losing to Arizona State by one goal and tying Arizona on the road last weekend, the Women of Troy (4-5-2, 1-1-1) stand in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. And the road doesn’t get much easier, as they head north this weekend to face Oregon and Oregon State in two matches that their sixth-year USC coach and players once again view as “must-win” situations.

“Right now, we still dictate our own future, we don’t have to rely on anybody else,” freshman midfielder Megan Borman said. “But if we don’t win this weekend, then we’re going to have to do that. So we want to have our destiny in our own hands.”

USC ranks last in the Pac-12 in goals allowed per game at 2.09, and Khosroshahin says his young team will have to stop leaking goals if they hope to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

“In all the games that we’ve played this year, our biggest opponent has been ourselves,” Khosroshahin said. “We get the better of the play then we make some decisions that are just ridiculous that leads to goals against.”

Players have echoed similar sentiments.

“I don’t want to blame it on the young back line, but I think it’s just mental lapses,” Borman said. “It’s just a lack of focus and a lack of discipline with getting back [on defense].”

The return of senior defender Kristina Noriega and senior defender Mia Bruno two weeks ago provided USC with a temporary boost in defense when it recorded its first shutout against Washington at McAlister Field.

But the Women of Troy regressed by allowing five goals to the Sun Devils last weekend, albeit with only nine players on the field by the end of the game because of two player ejections.

“It sucks that we’re ranked last [in goals allowed], but we’re not concerned at all,” said junior midfielder Autumn Altamirano. “We’re strong in the back. I think everything will be okay.”

On Friday, the Women of Troy will face Oregon State, which boasts one of the country’s top young goalkeepers in freshman Sammy Jo Prudhomme, who recorded a Pac-12 best of 13 saves against Cal State Fullerton on Aug. 30. Prudhomme’s 8.60 saves-per-game average pits her almost three points higher than any other Pac-12 goalkeeper.

Oregon State midfielder Megan Miller, who’s recorded three goals and five assists this season, leads the Beavers (9-3-0, 1-2-0). Junior forward Jenna Richardson tops the squad with four goals.

The Women of Troy will travel to Eugene, Ore. on Sunday to play the Ducks (5-5-2, 0-2-1). Oregon’s top scorer, freshman forward Kristen Parr, has six goals, while no other Duck has more than two scores.

Oregon sophomore goalkeeper Abby Steele has allowed 11 goals in 11 games while collecting 37 saves and recording four shutouts.

The Women of Troy have stellar all-time records against both Oregon schools, but have struggled against them in recent years.

USC is 13-5-1 all-time against Oregon State, but has lost the last three matchups. The team’s last win over the Beavers was a 1-0 victory in Corvallis, Ore. in 2008.

The Women of Troy haven’t beaten Oregon since 2009, after a 2-1 loss last year in Los Angeles and a 1-1 tie in 2010.

“I don’t think the opponent really matters right now,” Borman said. “Right now, any team we play is going to be good. The Trojans have been beating the Trojans. We have to get people working back and doing the little things.”

Khosroshahin remains confident his team can rebound.

“We’re still 1-1-1 in the conference, so we’re still in the thick of things here,” Khosroshahin said. “If we can get a couple of positive results this weekend, we’re in great shape.”

USC plays in Corvallis on Friday at 1 p.m. against Oregon State before another 1 p.m. kickoff on Sunday against Oregon in Eugene. Friday’s contest will be televised regionally on the Pac-12 Networks.