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Arizona soccer can put itself ‘on the map’ with win over No. 6 USC

A win over the Trojans would be more than a résumé boost

Photo courtesy Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

When Tony Amato arrived at Arizona in 2013, the USC Trojans were at the lowest point in their program’s history.

The usual-powerhouse was coming off two consecutive double-digit loss seasons, failing to reach the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.

Amato’s Wildcats took advantage, knocking off the Trojans 3-2 in the L.A. Coliseum — UA’s first win over USC since 2005.

“But since then,” Amato said of that 2013 matchup, “it hasn’t worked out.”

An understatement.

A lot has changed for USC since 2013. They hired a new coach and have strung together three 12-plus win seasons, and won a national title in 2016.

In the process, they’ve dominated Arizona, winning three straight matchups with a goal differential of 10-1.

Last season, USC routed Arizona 4-0 in Los Angeles. 2013 was a distant memory.

“They won the national championship last year for a reason,” Amato said. “They were a team that was just at a different place than us, and it just meant for a bad matchup.”

Arizona has been competitive against Stanford and UCLA in the last three years, taking those squads into overtime on multiple occasions, but not USC.

Amato believes Thursday night’s rematch in Tucson be different, though.

USC lost seven seniors, including two of their three top goal scorers, a star goalkeeper, and some key cogs defensively.

“They graduated some kids who were really important for them and are still really good, but I think we’ll be able to do some more things in attack,” Amato said. “In the past, it felt like they had the ball a lot and stopped us from every really gaining possession of the ball.”

Arizona, with arguably their most talented roster since Amato took over, enters with a 5-3-2 record, coming off an impressive split of No. 2 Stanford and then-No. 11 Cal in the Bay Area.

Arizona’s defense held a potent Stanford offense to just one goal, then shut out the Golden Bears.

In all, Arizona has won four of their last five.

“A lot of teams are burnt out when it gets to October,” said UA forward Charlotte Brascia. “You have a long preseason, you only have eight Pac-12 games, we’re getting better and better and we’re not burnt out yet. We’re just at the peak, and starting to get really good right now.”

The Wildcats, 2-1 in Pac-12 play, sit at 30th in RPI and received five votes in the latest Coaches Poll.

“We’re ranked a little bit lower than we should be,” said UA forward Jada Talley. “I think people underestimate us a little bit.”

USC arrives in Tucson with an 8-1-1 record, ranked No. 6 in the country.

The Trojans have won two straight and haven’t lost since Sept. 3, looking similar to the team that won the national championship last year, despite losing a strong senior class.

“Those are the teams that you want to play against,” said UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week. “People expect us to lose, so we have nothing to lose but everything to gain from this. It’s an awesome experience.”

Beating a top-10 team like USC would bolster Arizona’s NCAA Tournament résumé, yes, but it would also be a significant victory for an improving UA program that’s continually overshadowed by traditional Pac-12 powers like Stanford, UCLA, and, of course, USC.

“If we get that win, I think that will definitely put Arizona soccer on the map,” Talley said. “It’s going to be tough, but I think we can do it. We just beat the No. 11 team. People have to watch out for us.”

More notes on the Arizona soccer team can be found here.