Soccer nearly upsets UCLA in crosstown showdown

Senior forward Tara McKeown led the Trojans in the 2-2 tie.

The No. 12 USC women’s soccer team’s crosstown showdown against the No. 3 UCLA Bruins came down to a nail-biting double overtime 2-2 tie on Thursday night at Wallis Annenberg Stadium.

Despite coming off of two losses against Colorado and Utah, the Trojans gave the undefeated Bruins a run for their money and came just short of a win in the rare non-conference matchup.

Head coach Keidane McAlpine was proud of the performance his team put on against the talented Bruins.

“Given the fact this was the third game in seven days, the effort was phenomenal,” he said. “I think we were very disciplined in our approach, and we gave ourselves more than one opportunity to win the game.”

USC got off to a slow start and found themselves down by one goal in the 18th minute of first-half play after giving up a penalty kick. UCLA senior midfielder Marley Canales scored the penalty, giving the Bruins the 1-0 lead.

However, the Bruins’ early lead did not intimidate the Trojans. Almost 20 minutes after UCLA’s first goal, USC senior forward Tara McKeown scored a goal off of a beautifully weighted through-ball from sophomore midfielder Croix Bethune.

“UCLA is a fantastic team,” McAlpine said. “Their movement is hard to deal with, and I thought our group did a really great job of taking away the things they wanted to do.”

At the end of the first half of play it was a back-and-forth battle between the two Los Angeles schools, who entered the second half tied 1-1. The rest of the match was nothing less than exciting.

The Trojans came out pressuring the Bruins’ defense and were knocking on the door for another goal.

USC gained the lead in the 68th minute of the match off of an upper-left shot from McKeown, her second goal of the match. The goal was assisted by junior defender Lily Perrymand and junior forward Penelope Hocking.

This marked McKeown’s second brace of the year. She now has five goals on the 2020-21 season, passing Hocking’s previous lead of four goals.

McAlpine describes McKeown as a dangerous player with a motive to get the job done.

“From the free kick, to the goals, to everything she has done. Holding the ball up for us, running at back lines. She’s the one that starts everything for us,” he said.

“Her energy fuels our team,” McAlpine added. “Between she and Penelope, we always have a chance to win games, and she is starting to find her form.”

The Trojans came just short of stretching their lead to 3-1 in the 84th minute. Hocking had a 1v1, but UCLA freshman goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy came out to make the stop.

Shortly thereafter, UCLA forward Reilyn Turner made the equalizer in the 86th minute of play, forcing the match into overtime.

It was a battle to the finish as the Trojans were seeking to upset the Bruins on their turf and had opportunities to do so in the first overtime.

Trojan senior midfielder Savannah DeMelo had a crafty back-heeled pass to Hocking in the 95th minute, but the UCLA defense got a foot on Hocking’s shot on goal.

USC had yet another chance in the 100th minute after Hocking was fouled right outside of the box. McKeown tried to bend it like Beckham, but came short and hit the crossbar in her attempt.

The Trojans continued to threaten the UCLA back line and keeper in the second overtime, but could not find the back of the net.

McKeown’s two goals were two of only five goals scored against UCLA’s defense this season. USC ultimately outshot UCLA 21-14 in the match and took six corner kicks compared to UCLA’s five.

“It’s nice to get that performance against a team of that quality, but now we have to turn that into consistent performances and find a way to score the winning goal,” McAlpine said. “This group can do it. We are talented enough.”

The Women of Troy are now 3-3-1 on the year and will meet the 8-0-1 Bruins again April 16 at the Coliseum.

USC now looks forward to its next game against Arizona on March 26.