Trojans Pull Out Victory Over Bears in OT

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"Euphoria."

That was how Cal women's soccer coach Neil McGuire described his team's reaction to Alex Morgan's 88th-minute goal against No. 20 USC yesterday in Los Angeles. The score pushed the team to a 4-3 lead in its second Pac-10 game of the season.

Unfortunately for the No. 21 Bears however, euphoria came too soon. The final score was 5-4 after USC netted an overtime free kick.

Within a minute of Morgan's goal, Cal's defense made a tactical error, leaving USC freshman Elizabeth Eddy open to receive a cross. Eddy put the ball away, evening the score and completing her hat trick.

"Most games are won or lost in the last 10 or 15 minutes of matches," McGuire said. "When you get to this level, it can just be one error."

But for the Bears (5-3-4, 0-2 in the Pac-10), errors in the first half were just as crucial in determining the match. Within three minutes of kickoff, the Trojans (8-3-3, 1-1) had shut Cal out, 2-0.

"We were not at all pleased with the start that we had. USC came out with far more intensity, and they were ready to play," McGuire said. "We gave them way too much time and room, and when you give players at this level time and space, they're going to hurt you."

The Bears spent the rest of the game trying to play catch-up, and it started to pay off in the second half. McGuire said they began pushing numbers up, including placing freshman defender Emi Lawson in an offensive position. She assisted sophomore Lauren Battung in the 66th-minute goal that broke the shutout.

It wasn't until USC took a 3-1 lead in the 76th minute that Cal found the tempo and intensity to compete.

Morgan, who played 45 minutes in her first game back from a two-week national team training camp, was assisted by U-23 national team member Megan Jesolva in three goals during the final 15 minutes of regulation.

But a USC free kick in the fifth minute of overtime ended the Bears' explosive comeback and its chances at a conference victory this weekend.

On Friday, Cal tested UCLA, until Bruin forward Sydney Leroux seized victory for her team with an 83rd-minute goal. UCLA was fortunate to have their top scorer back; she had returned from the same national team camp as Morgan just early enough to compete against the Bears in its first conference match.

Cal repeated the 1-0 loss it achieved last year against the Bruins despite being without Morgan this weekend. It still speaks enormously of her offensive presence that Cal's shot count jumped from nine against UCLA to 21 against USC. Morgan took eight on Sunday.

The Bears will need to utilize the return of such a potent offensive force if they want to score their first Pac-10 victory.

Tags: ALEX MORGAN, CAL WOMEN'S SOCCER, NEIL MCGUIRE


Alex Matthews covers women's soccer. Contact her at [email protected]



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