Soccer

Trojans use relentless attacking effort to dispatch Utes

USC annihilated Utah at home behind its highest goal-scoring output in seven years.

A photo of USC senior forward Penelope Hocking and junior midfielder Jaelyn Eisenhart celebrating in white uniforms, with two Utah players in red uniforms in the left half of the frame.

No. 11 USC soccer rolled to a 7-0 victory over Utah on Sunday at McAlister Field. The Trojans completely dominated in possession, outshooting the Utes 22-3 en route to their 10th consecutive victory.

Utah is still yet to win its first conference match, but it stole a 1-1 draw on the road against No. 3 UCLA on Thursday. This Trojans team, however, was locked in from the outset, conceding just a single corner kick in the match’s opening 45 minutes.

“Utah, historically, is a team that causes us a lot of problems,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said after the game. “There’s some players who always look at this game as a game that has hampered our ability to have conference success.

“We talked a lot about trying to be exact and consistent every time we step out, and today was that.”

Beginning in the 10th minute, USC played a 20-minute stretch without allowing Utah to complete a pass in the attacking half of the field. The other 25 first-half minutes were equally as unkind to the Utes, as the Trojans held them without a single registered shot in the opening half.

“We did it without pressing,” McAlpine said of the defensive effort. “We did it from being organized behind the ball and forcing them not to be able to get the places they want to get to. Their target forward [sophomore Taliana Kaufusi] couldn’t really bring the ball down and turn and engage.”

The defensive effort from the front spearheaded the most successful outing from the USC attack this season. Six different Trojans found the back of the net with five others earning a goal contribution, and their seven goals scored is their most in a match since they put a school-record nine past Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2014.

“The most important part of that scoreline is the zero for them,” McAlpine said. “That’s the one that we really, really want to have every time we step out on the park, but to get this many people on the scoresheet only makes the team better.”

Some brilliant work from attackers junior Croix Bethune and freshman Simone Jackson with the ball at their feet led to two assists each from the pair.

Senior forward Penelope Hocking also moved just six goals shy of 10th on the Pac-12 all-time scoring list with her 50th goal in the 62nd minute. Hocking’s goal prompted an emptying of the bench, which included freshman center back Brooklyn Courtnall resting for the first time all season.

The win moves USC to 5-0 in conference play as we approach the halfway mark in the Pac-12 season. Still three points clear of the field, the Trojans travel for their next three matches against Oregon, Washington State and Washington.

“Oregon’s playing fantastic. Washington State’s playing fantastic. Washington’s not gotten the results, but they’re a crazy good team,” McAlpine said of the upcoming fixtures. “For us to have this momentum and this energy going into that road stretch is going to give us a lot of confidence going into that.”