Arizona soccer pulls off overtime upset of USC at LA Memorial Coliseum
Playing in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Arizona soccer (7-5-3) secured its second Pac-12 victory of the season Friday afternoon with a 3-2 overtime victory against the USC Trojans in the Wildcats’ only game of the weekend.
Arizona struggled in the first half, being outshot by the Trojans 12-2 with the only junior forward Alexandra Doller bringing a real threat. Her close-range shot was kick saved by USC goalkeeper Caroline Stanley in the 29th minute.
The Wildcats’ defense had issues containing the Trojan offense for much of the half, but was bailed out several times by junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman, who stopped several close range shots in the first 45 minutes and finished with five saves on the day.
The second half was a much stronger showing from the Wildcats, but they still failed to take advantage of golden opportunities like being stoned by another tremendous save from Stanley when she knocked away a curving free kick from senior Jazmin Ponce, and more bad luck for Doller as her header off a corner kick hit the crossbar.
With about 15 minutes remaining in regulation, both teams finally found their offensive rhythm and combined for five goals in a back-and-forth 20-minute onslaught that included overtime.
After a poor clearance from the Trojan defense and a scramble for possession in front of the USC penalty area, sophomore forward Kaitlyn Lopez scored her fourth goal of the season and got the Wildcats on the board as her left footed blast into the top corner of the net made it 1-0, Arizona, in the 76th minute. Just moments later, the Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick after Lopez was tripped up inside the box as she broke away from the USC defense. Ponce stepped up to take the penalty and easily put it past Stanley.
A late pair of set pieces and timely goals from Marlee Carrillo got USC back in the game starting in the 83rd minute when she scored off a USC corner that the Wildcats failed to clear out. Carrillo tied the game at 2-2 with just a little more than four minutes remaining in regulation when her header off freshman Kayla Mills’ free kick somehow found the back of the net among a sea of Wildcat and Trojan players forcing overtime.
Less than five minutes into the extra period, Ponce, a Southern California native, stepped up to take another free kick and this time her Beckham-esque shot from just outside the penalty area would not be denied by a sprawling Stanley. It was Ponce’s second goal of the game, 10th of the season, and her fifth game winner for the Wildcats.
In a press release, Wildcat head coach Tony Amato said Arizona’s resiliency was key.
“I am really excited for our team,”Amato said. “We were presented a great opportunity to play a quality team in the Coliseum and really took advantage of it. We showed great mental toughness after USC cancelled our lead in the final 10 minutes and continued to work. Our players found a way to win the match and that will be important for us going forward.”
Friday’s victory was the first win for Arizona against USC since 2004.
After a difficult five game Pac-12 road swing that saw the Wildcats go 2-3-0, Arizona returns home for its final home stretch of the season, starting with the Washington schools this weekend.
— Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91