While Washington State (10-2-3, 4-1-2) held the explosive No. 5 USC (11-2-1, 6-0-1) offense in check over a 110 minutes of soccer on Thursday night, a series of missed opportunities in the last two minutes of the second overtime could come back to haunt the Cougs as to keep pace in the conference race (and for a NCAA tournament berth).
The second overtime started with USC in possession of the ball. But the Washington State defense quickly forced a turnover to get the ball back to its attackers. Unfortunately the Trojans defense kept the ball away from the box before they went on the attack — which was stifled by WSU. Both sides became more physical as they picked up the pace to score.
WSU earned a corner kick in the 104th minute and the ball bounced off USC then out of bounds for another corner kick. The second consecutive corner kick ended with a foul on WSU as the ball came into the box from the corner. A header by Sydney Studer in the 106th minute was stopped short of the goal by USC keeper Anna Smith.
The Cougar offense kept ip the pressure as they got their third corner kick of the second overtime, this one in the 102nd minute. Smith tipped it right to a Cougar player who hit it right back to the Trojan keeper. While WSU’s offense had more opportunities in the final overtime, it wasn’t able to score — Elyse Bennett missed a shot in which she had the goalie headed in the opposite side of the net from the shot.
Washington State had its fourth and fifth corner kicks of the second overtime frame in the last 60 seconds but both of the shots missed the net and the Trojans were content to let the clock run out with a scoreless draw on the road.
Southern California started off the first overtime with possession, and with Penelope Hocking on the bench after the collision in the 89th minute. The Cougar defense forced it out bounds and USC’s corner kick was cleared out by the WSU defense. And that quickly led to Washington State’s first possession that was quickly broken up by Smith.
The Cougs second possession saw Mackenzie Frimpong-Ellertson slip the ball between the defenders legs before she was fouled for a free kick. Unfortunately the header was high landed on the top side of the net. WSU kept up the pressure, and this included a shot by Bennett that was just wide. Sydney Studer missed an opportunity in the 96th minute when she had the corner of the net to work with.
Croix Bethune had a chance to end it in the 99th minute at point blank range, but her shot was too high as it sailed over the net. WSU’s offensive possession came to the end in the first time as the clock was not stopped after a handball on the Trojans in the 100th minute and WSU was unable to get the free kick off. Washington State’s coaching staff was understandably irate after that show of horrific officiating.
The third yellow card of the match was on USC’s Helena Sampio in the 89th minute. Washington State turned it over shortly after the free kick, before it’s defense for the ball back. USC had a shot that the Cougar defense blocked before it could get to the net. Southern California’s shot on the net was easily saved by Nadia Cooper with 15 seconds until regulation expired with a scoreless tie.
Bethune had a couple of shots on goal (midway through the second half) while Cooper was on the ground after a diving save. But the Cougar defense backed up their keeper and blocked both shots before they cleared it out of play in the 64th minute. Despite the save the Cougs kept up pressure on USC’s defense and has multiple opportunities that were broken up by a couple of sloppy passes and one penalty on Southern California’s White, which led to a yellow card when she vehemently disagreed with the official.
Southern California responded to the yellow card by dominating the offensive possessions over the immediate five minutes. This included two shots that sailed well over the net in successive possessions. Their third shot in a six minute stretch was wide of the net.
As time ran into the last 17 minutes of regulation, both offenses stepped up their attacks. The attackers pressed any advantages they could find as they attempted to get the ball behind the defenses. Southern California consistently failed to get behind the WSU defense, but they kept getting shots off despite it. Meanwhile, Washington State would get behind the defense but bad passes kept the forwards from being able to press the numerical advantage.
Both sides spent the 77th through 79th minutes of trading shots on goal, USC had the best opportunities but the shot from Hannah White was a little too high above the crossbar.
In the 84th minute WSU keeper Cooper was run over by Hocking as they both made a play for the ball at the top of the box. Cooper was low to get up, but she stayed in the game after she drew the yellow card. Southern California had a header that went too high on its next possession; then Hocking had another opportunity to score but it was wide of the side bar and the score remained tied at zero.
Coming out of the break, the Trojans initially had solid possession of the ball. But the Cougar defense held strong as Southern California was kept away from the box and a couple of passes were picked off. This trend continues through the first five minutes of the second half as USC began to show off its explosive offensive attack. Cooper made a relatively easy save on a shot on goal that hit her right in the chest.
Washington States first offensive opportunity of the second half came in the 53rd minute, the shot was easily stopped. At that point it became a back and forth affair as both squads hit fast breaks off of turnovers…only to turn over themselves.
Smith made one hell of a diving save in the 56th minute on a shot by Ellertson that would have probably found the net if she had whiffed on the dive. The Cougs got a corner kick a few moments later but the opportunity was broken up as the Trojans took possession and applied pressure on the WSU defense. This opportunity included a corner kick that Pulvier broke up.
Southern California’s keeper a save on a shot by Studer at point blank range. It was Smith’s seventh save of the match up to that point.
Smith made another save after a header, off of a Cougar corner kick, bounced right to her. It was WSU’s second shot on goal of the match. The Cougs followed that up with a throw in near the corner in the 27th minute that resulted in a missed pass. WSU’s offense spent about three straight minutes near the box and was unable to convert the shots on goal into points.
The Cougar defense remained strong, and Cooper continued to play lights out in the net, as USC was unable to capitalize on its offensive possession in the 28th minute.
Over the next eight minutes, Washington State kept the Trojans defense on the back foot. As uSC was barely able to get past midfield before the Cougars took back possession. It culminated when Gray fired off a shot with a tough angle and a defender in her face in the 37th minute.
As the first half entered its final five minutes, both sides began to play with more physicality as they pressed any offensive opportunities they could generate. Bennett’s speed was an advantage for the Cougar offense as she was able to quickly get the ball near the box; but Southern California was usually in the passing lanes to prevent the WSU offense from getting the ball into the box.
The Trojans had a couple of opportunities in the final couple minutes of the half, but WSU’s defense held firm and the match went to the intermission tied at zero.
Bennett got into a one-on-one matchup with defender and launched a well aimed shot to the top right corner of the net thay Smith deflected with the tips of her fingers in the 12th minute. At this point, the Cougs had outshot USC 3-2. While Washington State had possessed the ball more, the Trojans had kept up the pressure on the Cougar defense when they did have the ball.
USC’s defense did a better job of collapsing on passing lanes after the first ten minutes of the match; which made it more difficult the Washington State offense to get into position on the offensive side of the pitch. This was best exemplified when St. Detrizio and Bennett had shots within five seconds of each other; but both were blocked by the Trojans defense.
Washington State earned the first touch and also had the first two scoring opportunities of the match. The second one was the closest as St. Detrizio ended up in a one-on-one matchup against the goalie and she took a shot aimed at the opposite goal post. Unfortunately for the Cougs, Smith made the diving save to keep the score clean in the second minute of the match. It was a sign of the Cougars continued offensive dominance, which had consistently been a theme throughout the season.
Grayson Lynch got WSU’s next offensive opportunity in the fifth minute but her shot was wide left of the net. It was another situation (in the first five minutes) where the Cougs had gotten one of their attackers in a one-on-one match-up with the goalie but they were unable to pinch it into the net.
USC’s first scoring opportunity of the match was wasted with a long pass that sailed past the Trojans’ forward and into the waiting hands of Cooper. It was fortunate the pass had sailed long as the WSU defense wasn’t in position to stop Southern California’s attacker — she’d gotten behind the defense. This was where USC’s offense began to get into its flow and take possession do the ball more often.
The Trojans were aggressive on fast breaks after WSU turnovers and it often lead to situations where USC’s attackers were running behind the Cougar defense. A save from Cooper, and a great move by Puliver to intercept a pass then boot it out of bounds to keep the score tied at nil-nil.
Post match thoughts
- Washington State outshot the Trojans 24-19, with an 11-6 advantage in shots on goal. The Cougs were the better offense on Thursday night and it was incredibly frustrating that they weren’t able to convert any of those opportunities into goals.
- Hocking’s collision with Cooper was nasty and I hope she’s okay. While Cooper was down for longer right after the collision, she finished the match while Hocking was pulled due to an unknown injury prior to the start of the first overtime.
- The Cougars currently sit at No. 55 in RPI and desperately needed a win here to build their NCAA tournament resume. While a draw against the No. 5 team in the country doesn’t hurt the resume, it doesn’t help it either.
Next-up for the Cougs is a match against No. 8 UCLA on Sunday at the Lower Soccer Field. Kick-off is at 5:00 PM.
Photo Credit: WSU Soccer