UCLA women’s soccer will welcome crosstown rival USC on Friday, a match that carries postseason implications for both teams.
Friday’s meeting with the No. 6 Trojans (14-2-1, 8-1-1 Pac-12) will be an opportunity for the No. 5 Bruins (14-2-2, 7-2-1) to stake their claim at a high national seed. Ranked ninth in RPI and fifth in the United Soccer Coaches poll, the Bruins could be in play for a top-four overall seed in the postseason.
If UCLA were rewarded with such a seed, the team wouldn’t have to leave the comfort of Westwood until the semifinals, playing the first four rounds at home.
“A win would be huge especially regarding our seed and not having to travel as much,” said sophomore goalkeeper Teagan Micah.
The Bruins will face the defending national champion Trojans without a key figure in their starting lineup.
Sophomore midfielder Jessie Fleming recently departed Westwood to join the Canadian national team for a pair of friendlies against USA.
Fleming made her debut with the national team at age 15 and helped Canada win bronze in the 2016 Summer Olympics. She was also named Top Drawer Soccer’s midseason player of the county early in October.
But coach Amanda Cromwell appears confident in her team’s ability to substitute one of her top players.
“Our depth is something other teams don’t have,” Cromwell said. “We have lots of good players that we can interchange and put in different parts of the field.”
The Bruins backline is coming off an impressive weekend, conceding one goal against a pair of ranked opponents, including top-ranked Stanford.
Senior defender MacKenzie Cerda will play her final regular season home game in front of a large group of family and friends.
“Its definitely bittersweet even though we still have games to come, but I’m excited,” Cerda said. “I love (Drake Stadium), I have lots of memories there.”
Freshman defender Karina Rodriguez will get her opportunity to experience the crosstown rivalry for the very first time.
The freshman ranks third on the team in minutes played and will play a pivotal role in the Bruins’ attempt to halt a Trojan offense that ranks third in the Pac-12 in goals scored, trailing Stanford and UCLA.
“It’s my first rivalry game against (USC) and its going to be a packed house,” Rodriguez said. “They’ve nearly sold out every ticket. I couldn’t be more pumped.”
UCLA expects Drake Stadium to be loud Friday as tickets are being sold for $1.
“Packed crowds are huge. We especially love it when it’s in our home turf,” Micah said. “Traveling away we’ve had a few crazy crowds that have been against us so it will be nice to have it for us this time around.”
The team’s official twitter handle reported Wednesday that only a limited amount of tickets were available in a stadium with a capacity of 11,700.
“The crowd definitely helps pump us up,” Cerda said. “When we see a lot of people there it gets us going, we feel really supported. It makes for a good environment.”
Friday’s top-10 matchup, against a rival school, could very well springboard the Bruins into the right direction heading into the postseason.
“I’m really pumped, it’s always a great rivalry. I’m excited to get out there,” Micah said. “Our entire season has been leading up to this game and we’re all excited to get out there.”