Sun Devil Soccer edged by No. 21 USC, 2-1
TEMPE, Ariz. – Nicole Douglas' team-leading 12th goal of the season was not enough offense for the Sun Devil soccer team to overcome No. 21 USC on Thursday night as the visiting Trojans came away with a 2-1 win.
Both teams had to play through windy – and at times dusty – conditions which made for a number of challenging situations. In some cases, the wind nullified possible scoring opportunities when the gusts would push otherwise on-target passes out of play.
"Obviously disappointed with the result, but the first half was excellent," ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said. "I felt that we were the better team in that half. We came out in the second half and we struggled to deal with the (the wind) a little bit. Then we conceded a soft goal. We have to do better in that penalty area, but overall I'm really pleased with our efforts. Again, we didn't deal with those elements in the second half and USC did so congratulations to them."
For much of the first half, the script was following the same as last year's contest between the two teams. In that game, Douglas' goal in the 14th minute was the difference in ASU's 1-0 win.
Although it took a little longer this time around (31st minute), Douglas once again was responsible for the first goal of the game after passes from Alexia Delgado and Cori Sullivan set up Douglas for the finish to give the Sun Devils (8-2-1, 0-1-1 Pac-12) the lead.
In last year's game, the Trojans (7-2, 2-0) had more than twice as many shots as the Sun Devils (15-6), but only a 2-1 advantage in shots on goal. In this season's edition, USC put 11 of its 16 shots on frame while the Sun Devils did the same with only two of their 10 shots.
The Trojans went to the locker room with momentum after tying the game in the 44th minute. USC scored the go-ahead goal in the 61st minute and was able to hold the lead for the remainder of the game.
"They had the wind so they pressed a little more, otherwise nothing really changed," Winkworth said of the second half. "We had to go up against the wind [gusts were between 35-40 mph at times] and we weren't able to do that. For the first 20 minutes or so we couldn't get out and partly because of that we were trying to keep it down. They pressed very well and we couldn't get out. Once the wind died down I thought we started to get forward again a little bit better, but we didn't deal with the elements well at all."
Added Douglas, who led ASU with six shots and accounted for both of ASU's shots on goal, "We needed to create more opportunities in the second half. I think we were a bit worried that we were tired and then they got the second goal. We switched off and we needed that extra bit of motivation to keep going and keep digging. And we did that, but we just needed to be a little bit better."
Olivia Nguyen was the only other Sun Devils with multiple shots (2).
Winkworth was pleased with the play of defender Jayda Hylton-Pelaia, one of four Sun Devils – Birta Gudlaugs, Eva van Deursen and Callie Darst – who did not come out of the game.
"She had a great game, I thought she was one of our best players tonight," Winkworth said. "She's a great worker, she gets up and down the pitch, she's got a good delivery, she's good defensively one on one, she's good offensively one on one and she's got a bright future for Jamaica. I'm excited for her."
The schedule gets no easier for the Sun Devils as they host third-ranked UCLA on Sunday.
Although the Bruins pose another difficult challenge, van Deursen stressed the importance of the Sun Devils knowing they have the ability not only to compete with but also overcome any team on a given day.
"I think we have to take the positives as always and we will," van Deursen said. "There's a lot of positive things from this game. We're playing against one of the best teams in the country and we're competing with them and creating chances. I think taking these positives and fixing the little things will help us in the future."
The Sun Devils and Bruins will square off at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Click here to purchase tickets.