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Scouting report: UCLA women’s soccer vs. USC

By Jay Fenn

Nov. 3, 2022 11:24 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 3 at 11:55 p.m. 

No. 1 UCLA women’s soccer (17-1, 9-1 Pac-12) will face off against crosstown rival No. 14 USC (11-2-3, 7-1-2) on the last day of the regular season for a chance at winning the Pac-12 title. The Trojans are winless in the last seven meetings between the two rivals, and the Bruins need a victory to ensure at least a share of the Pac-12 title. Here is the scouting report from Sports staff writer Jay Fenn – who hopes he can make it to the 2 p.m. game after his noon discussion.

USC
Goals per game: 1.94
Goals allowed per game: 0.875
X-factor: Croix Bethune

The one advantage USC has over UCLA entering Friday is the Trojans will have the best player on the pitch.

USC midfielder Croix Bethune is currently the No. 1 player in college women’s soccer according to Top Drawer Soccer, and she has played up to that standard thus far in her career.

In 2021, Bethune tallied 16 goals and 10 assists en route to the Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year, First-Team All-Pac-12 and First-Team All-American honors. So far this season, Bethune has tallied nine assists and found the back of the net eight times – just half of her goal-scoring output from a season ago.

That decline seems to have worn off on the entire Trojan offense, who after scoring 2.8 goals per game last year, is down to 1.9 goals per game this season.

That offensive inefficiency has plagued the Trojans especially as of late, as USC mustered just one combined goal against Arizona, Utah and Colorado, who represent the fifth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams, respectively, in the Pac-12 standings.

On the other side of the field, USC has been stout defensively, allowing just under one goal per game on average. The Trojans have held elite offenses such as Stanford, which averages 2.63 goals per game, to no more than one goal.

Goalkeeper Anna Smith supplies the veteran leadership in the back, logging 55 career appearances while playing the full 90 minutes in every game this year except two.

USC is also led by first-year head coach Jane Alukonis, an assistant coach on UCLA’s staff from 2018 to 2021.

Alukonis and the Trojans will not only need to find a way to slow down the Bruins’ elite offense but also must manage to get on the scoreboard in any way possible.

UCLA
Goals per game: 2.94
Goals allowed per game: 0.39
X-factor: Cohesive backline

There is a reason the Bruins are the No. 1 team in the country.

UCLA touts not only the lowest goals-against average in the nation but also has the third-highest scoring offense in the country.

It all starts with the backline, a group that is anchored by sophomore defenders Lilly Reale, Jayden Perry and Quincy McMahon. The trio ranks third, fourth and sixth on the team in minutes played, respectively, with all three eclipsing the 1,000-minute mark this season.

Behind them is goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy, and it’s difficult to find a better keeper in the country than the graduate student. Brzykcy has accumulated a load of honors throughout her career in Westwood, including Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2020, and has allowed a mere seven goals over 18 games all season.

On offense, the blue and gold are led by junior Reilyn Turner, the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and senior Sunshine Fontes. The forwards are tied for the team lead in goals with nine apiece and have combined to rack up 10 assists as well.

The biggest issue that has plagued UCLA offensively this year has been how it starts matches. Look no further than its lone loss against Stanford this year, when the blue and gold registered five shots in the first half and went on to log 12 in the second frame, albeit to no avail.

A similar trend can be seen in UCLA’s match against then-No. 1 North Carolina on Sept. 4, when the Bruins scored both of their goals after the 60th minute to knock off the Tar Heels.

The key for the Bruins against the Trojans is to try and score early. If they let the game linger on in a scoreless tie, their rival may be able to sneak a ball into the back of the net, leaving the blue and gold with no time to respond.

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Jay Fenn | Sports staff
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
Fenn is currently a Sports staffer on the baseball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's soccer beat and a contributor on the beach volleyball and men's and women's golf beats.
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