USC returns from tough road stand to face Arizona

Senior forward Tara McKeown kicking outside of the box as a defender approaches.
USC senior forward Tara McKeown scored the Trojans’ two goals in the game against UCLA. (Eli Masket | Daily Trojan)

USC and No. 11 UCLA women’s soccer teams met March 18 in Westwood. After an impressive performance from USC senior forward Tara McKeown, who netted two goals for the Trojans, the game finished in a 2-2 draw. USC will now look ahead to a matchup against conference foe Arizona. 

About halfway through the season, USC sits in the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings. At 3-3-1, the Trojans are No. 8 in a competitive league. USC’s crosstown rival UCLA is sporting an undefeated record in Pac-12 play and is 8-0-1 overall. 

UCLA went up early after senior midfielder Marley Canales converted a penalty kick in the 18th minute. Redshirt senior Kaylie Collins was in goal for the Trojans. 

USC’s first goal of the game came in the 38th minute from McKeown, who converted on a downfield assist from sophomore midfielder Croix Bethune. The remainder of the half was scoreless. 

Both teams were well-defended by strong backfield units, but McKeown evaded defenders on her way to her second goal of the game. The goal — which occurred in the 68th minute of play — came from just inside the box, soaring over UCLA junior goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy into the upper-left corner of the goal post. 

As the game progressed into its final five minutes of play, it appeared the Trojans were on their way to a big victory over one of the nation’s top teams. However, UCLA freshman forward Reilyn Turner forced the game into overtime with a goal in the 86th minute. 

In the 99th minute, McKeown was awarded a free kick but narrowly missed hitting the crossbar. USC junior forward Penelope Hocking had an opportunity to score off the bounce, but Brzykcy cleared the ball away. 

After a long 110 minutes of play, the game ended in a tie.

“I thought the game went pretty well,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “I thought we should have won the game.”

The tie came after a two-game losing streak for the Trojans. USC was previously shut-out 2-0 in their game against Utah and lost an early 2-0 lead to Colorado, falling 3-2 in overtime. 

“I thought the Utah game, we didn’t play very well,” McAlpine said. “I thought the Colorado game we started to find our fight, bit unfortunate the way it ended.”

Despite the last three games resulting in a 0-2-1 run, McAlpine appears optimistic about USC’s remaining schedule. 

“We’re starting to feel like the group I thought we would have at the beginning of the year,” McAlpine said. 

After three consecutive games on the road, USC will be playing against Arizona at the Coliseum, where they have yet to lose a game.

The Wildcats have had a dominant start to their season, winning their first four games by a total of 13-1 goals against non-Pac-12 opponents. However, in conference play, they have gone 2-3, including losses against UCLA, Oregon and Washington. 

“They are such a disruptive team in their style — it’s like nothing we’ve played so far,” McAlpine said. 

Led in both goals and assists by senior forward Jill Aguilera, the Trojan defense will have to stop Arizona’s aggressive offense to stay in the game. 

“We just have to be alert,” McAlpine said. “We spent a little time just trying to make sure that the players understand that the game may not have the rhythm and flow that the UCLA game had,” McAlpine said. 

On the offensive side, the dynamic duo of McKeown and Hocking will face a stingy Arizona defense that has only allowed 0.89 goals per game. McKeown and Hocking both lead the team in goals scored, with five and four goals, respectively.

The game starts at 12:30 p.m. Friday and can be streamed on the Pac-12 Network.