The Oregon women’s soccer team travels to Los Angeles this weekend for a pair of games against No. 3 UCLA (8-0-1, 1-0-0 Pac-12) and USC (3-7-0, 0-1-0 Pac-12) as it looks to rebound from a loss to Utah in the Pac-12 opener last week.
The Ducks face off with the Bruins Friday at 5 p.m. in Westwood, Calif. UCLA is lead by senior forward Sydney Leroux, who has more caps and goals for the United States under-20 team than any other player all-time. On the season, Leroux has six goals, four of which have been game winners.
Oregon head coach Tara Erickson said that preparing to play UCLA is more than simply keying in on a player like Leroux because UCLA’s roster is stacked with high-caliber players. By Erickson’s estimation, the Bruins boast somewhere between 18 to 20 players who have played at a national team level, either for a youth national team or a senior team, including several who played for their countries at this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Germany.
“I don’t think you can focus on any one player,” Erickson said. “They’ve got a fantastic starting group, and they’ve got fantastic players on the bench. I don’t think a team like UCLA you can just gear up towards one player.”
The Ducks will likely continue to play in the 4-4-2 they debuted against Utah last Friday, Erickson said, because the extra midfielder gives the Ducks their best chance to compete with the likes of UCLA.
Though Oregon will keep the same formation, Erickson said that the Ducks will need to change some aspects of the way they played against Utah. Specifically, the Ducks will need to play with more “urgency” in all aspects of the game to have success this weekend.
“I think another word for urgency is just ‘effort,’” Erickson said. “So we’re just looking for a little bit more effort in the final third to score goals and equally in not conceding goals”
Freshman Shanelle Simien said the team needs to play with confidence in each other to have success against quality opponents.
“Trust is a huge thing playing this game,” Simien said. ”If you don’t have trust in your teammates you won’t be successful, so we just need to go out with faith in each other, and when that happens, we will be very successful.”
In UCLA, the Ducks will face an attack that has netted 17 goals on the year while only conceding four. Erickson said it will be imperative for the Ducks to withstand the pressure of a UCLA attack that averages nearly 20 shots per game.
On Sunday, the Ducks will take the field against USC to face a struggling Women of Troy team that has dropped four straight games going into a matchup Friday against No. 23 Oregon State (7-2-1 1-0-0 Pac-12).
Though the Women of Troy do have a losing record on the year, they have played some highly ranked opponents, including a narrow 1-0 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma State during which the Trojans outshot the Cowboys 12-7.
Offensively, the Women of Troy are paced by Brittany Kerridge, who leads the team in both goals (three) and assists (four).
The Women of Troy have conceded more goals than they’ve scored, and Erickson believes that the Ducks will have the chance to be more offensively minded against USC than against UCLA.
The weekend’s slate of games presents a tall order for the Ducks, but freshman Bri Pugh said that it’s nothing the team can’t handle.
“We really need to go out there with the mind-set that we’re going to win and be confident in ourselves,” Pugh said. “We just need to have fun and play the game. That’s what it’s all about.”