Talk about a super-sub making the difference.
When USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin made his final substitution in the 85th minute of a 0-0 match against UCLA Friday at the Coliseum, he wasn’t even watching the game. His eyes were focused squarely on the notebook in his hands, where he was putting together his lineups and scheming for the upcoming overtime period.
But he started watching at exactly the right time, because that sub – freshman midfielder Autumn Altamirano – scored just 64 seconds after entering the pitch on a remarkable strike from roughly 15 yards out that neatly nestled into the top corner of the net.
Khosroshahin immediately slammed his notebook down and focused his eyes back on the match, as USC (9-4-2, 2-2-1 in the Pac-10) held off UCLA (9-6-1, 2-3) in the final minutes to win 1-0 in front of 8,527 fans on Break the Record Night at the Coliseum.
“When I came in, I was like, ‘We need to score,’” said Altamarino, a native of Tustin and one of six key contributors for USC who are freshmen. “I’m just glad I got that in.
“We did not want it to go into overtime and we wanted to beat UCLA so bad.”
The crowd bested the previous record for fans at an NCAA women’s soccer match, 8,204, set in a 2006 match between Texas A&M-North Carolina in College Station, Tex.
Friday’s crowd featured almost six times as many fans that showed up two weeks prior at the Coliseum against Stanford. It was only the third time this season the Women of Troy have played in front of a crowd of more than one thousand.
With the lively atmosphere, Khosroshahin said that he noticed his team was a little too energetic for his liking at kickoff.
“We were a little frantic in the beginning, but we kept our cool,” said the fourth-year coach, who led the Women of Troy to the national title in his first season in 2007. “We kept working, and they came through.
“We kept our composure tonight.”
USC had three real scoring chances before Altamirano’s goal, including an apparent goal by midfielder Megan Ohai that was waived off by referee Josh Wilkins when Ohai collided with Sandiford. Forward Ashley Freyer had a speedy shot from the left side of the box turned away by Sandiford in the 36th minute. In the 73rd, two Women of Troy whiffed on consecutive clear attempts directly in front of the net, and UCLA eventually cleared and put together a counter-attack.
The Bruins’ best chances came early on, when forward Zakiya Bywaters fired two shots on goal within the first 10 minutes of the match.
Both teams seemed more tentative at the start of the second half but an aggressive slide-tackle from UCLA midfielder Chelsea Cline on USC goalie Shelby Church in the 67th minute got tempers flaring, and the final 20 minutes were fairly hostile.
Khosroshahin has said it before, and he said it again this week in advance of Friday’s game: there is no love lost between the two schools. He was open in calling out UCLA coach Jillian Ellis for her continued involvement with the U.S. national team development squads, which he says provide her and the UCLA squad an unfair advantage in recruiting and developing players.
After the match, he and Ellis met briefly to shake hands.
Said Khosroshahin: “She didn’t have much to say.”
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin
Game-winning goal scorer, Autumn Altamirano