The USC Women of Troy won the NCAA Women's Soccer National Championship, the first for USC, beating the Florida State Seminoles yesterday, 2 - 0, in College Station, Texas. In another landmark, USC coach Ali Khosroshahin is only the second NCAA coach to win a championship in his first season in the sport. You can get a good read on the game here.
USC got into the final by beating UCLA 2 - 1, which marked the first and only goal that USC conceded in the College Cup. The press and other response to the result against UCLA was to write about it as if USC had gutted out a win by being well organized and determined - soccer code for "compensating for lack of talent by hard work." And while USC is hard-working - Khosroshahin instituted grueling practices - consisting of running, running, and for variety a bit of running - when he arrived, it's not just hard work. After all, UCLA's season record showed only one more win than USC's when they met the other day.But enough about the bruins.
I was able to catch a fair bit of the USC - FSU game yesterday, and it was a well-earned win for the Trojans. Florida State is a good team and has a fair few international players - including Mami Yamaguchi who plays for the Japanese women's national team, Sanna Talonen of Finland, and Kirsten van de Ven from the Netherlands. FSU is extremely fast on the attack and plays good one-touch ball, wherein passes are immediately converted to shots on goal.
The Trojans' approach to the game was to prevent FSU from using that speed - they made a real effort to get the ball forward and spend more time in the FSU half of the field, and shut down the central midfield, which is where FSU launches most of their attacks. FSU spent a lot of time on the defensive in the first half especially, and had trouble with USC's controlled passing.
The Women of Troy's effort was rewarded when Marihelen Tomer seized on a botched clearance at the FSU goalmouth and headed in the ball.
AP Photo / Matt Slocum
FSU showed flashes of their skill, for instance they were able at one point to play Yamaguchi through behind the USC defense - a rare lapse that lasted for no more than a few seconds before USC's goalkeeper Kristin Olsen took the ball from Yamaguchi's feet - a ballsy thing to do; get it wrong and you've got a boxer's nose to show for it...
Olsen was huge in the goal, figuratively and literally (when your star midfielder Amy Rodriguez is 5' 4", a 6' goalie is towering over the competition). She consistently defused set pieces from FSU, and on the rare occasion that she was wrong-footed, someone was there to back her up.
In the game thread, I mentioned that by the end of the first half, FSU looked a bit gassed - they came out firing in the second half, with Amanda DaCosta freed up to make more runs especially on the right wing, but they couldn't sustain the pace for the half. Going down to 10 players - after Libby Gianeskis attempted a shirt-tackle and got a straight red card for trouble - didn't help their cause, and eventually Carrier scored the second goal for USC that iced the game.
I'll be honest, I don't watch a great deal of women's soccer, but I was tremendously impressed with USC on the field. As I mentioned above, a lot of the press coverage and blog blathering implied that they were there because of tedious organization and their defense - and while that's true to some extent, that doesn't account for the fantastic tackling and taking of the ball on defense, the quick passing into space, and the speed and nimbleness on offense. There was more than one time where Amy Rodriguez was pulling moves that wouldn't have looked out of place on a field in Madrid or London. As for the reputation of scoring opportunistic goals: they can't all look like something by Samuel E'to or - in a nod to our rivals across town - Benny Feilhaber's goal against Mexico. Any coach will tell you that the ability to get goals when the opportunity arises* is a very valuable trait - and USC demonstrated it twice yesterday.
Congratulations to the Women's Soccer National Champs!
* I hesitate to use a phrase familiar to Arsenal fans, the "fox in the box," because I don't want to appear to be commenting on player's appearances when it's a womens team... but if the shoe fits...