Los Angeles Soccer: Ali Khosroshahin
The college women's season kicked off for real Friday with Long Beach State riding its biggest star to pull out a tight victory over No. 25 USC at McAllister Park.
Two-time first-team All-Big West midfielder Shawna Gordon (Rancho Cucamonga/Los Osos HS) beat USC goalkeeper Shelby Church with an 86th-minute header to lift the 49ers to a 2-1 triumph.
Defender Alex Balcer also scored, on a 45-yard free kick off Church's hands, for Long Beach State, which rallied after Haley Boysen (Moorpark/Harvard-Westlake School) gave the Women of Troy a 17th-minute advantage with a looping header off Brittany Kerridge's free kick.
The 49ers are expected to battle UC Irvine, which won its opener (see below), for the Big West Conference title this season, and USC provides a decent barometer, even if the meeting came a little early for Mauricio Ingrassia.
“I think for both teams, first game out, not a lot of rhythm that can be developed,” the eighth-year Long Beach State coach told ESPN Los Angeles. “It would have been nice to play each other maybe five games in, when we've had a little time to settle our lineups.”
Gordon scored after a long throw-in at 6-foot-1 Jazz Strozier (Ventura/Buena HS and Ventura College) flicked into the goalmouth. The ball was knocked about and into the air, and the midfielder -- “Our leader,” Ingrassia called her -- leapt above three others to nod the ball into the net.
B.J. Snow, who has been on Ellis' staff since 2006 and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2009, will take charge of the Bruins.
Ellis, who became UCLA coach in 1999, posted a 229-45-14 record in 12 seasons at Westwood, transforming the Bruins into a national power with final-four appearances in 2000 and 2003-09, reaching the final in 2000 and 2004-05. UCLA was 13-8-2 and reached the third round of the NCAA tournament last season.
She has extensive experience with the U.S. youth national teams and was head coach of the side that reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup last year.
"Today is so bittersweet for me," Ellis said in a statement released by the school. "While I am excited and energized for the new challenges ahead with U.S. Soccer, it is also sad to depart an amazing university with so many wonderful friendships and memories. UCLA has been my home for the past 12 years and college soccer my life for more than 21 years, but I am ready to help U.S. Soccer in its commitment to continue the evolution of the women's game."
Former UC Irvine women's coach April Heinrichs, a former U.S. women's national team captain and coach, will be the technical director of the national teams, the top position. Hers and Ellis' posts are newly created.
Snow, who is married to U.S. women's national team forward/midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, was a standout defender at Indiana University in 1996-99, helping the Hoosiers to four Big Ten Conference titles and NCAA championships in 1998 and 1999. He was an assistant coach to Ellis with the U.S. under-20 team and has served as the Bruins' head coach when Ellis has been away with national teams.
Across town at USC, Harold Warren -- head coach Ali Khosroshahin's top assistant -- has departed to become head coach at Alabama-Birmingham.
Their link goes far deeper than that.
Sanchez was a midfield creator and Gonzalez a backline anchor for Cal State L.A.'s men's team in the early 1990s -- a breeding ground, it turns out, for outstanding coaches.
Sanchez returned just five players from last year's champions for what was supposed to be a "restructuring" campaign. His Mounties are 17-1-4, ranked second in the state and fourth in the nation, and one victory -- Friday morning at 10 against Northern California's West Valley College (16-4-2) -- from an opportunity to defend their title on Sunday.
Gonzalez's Falcons (22-1-2) have more experience but are somewhat of an underdog, forced to knock off the nation's Nos. 1 and 3 teams to reach the final four. They're no favorite at Canyons, either: NorCal powerhouse Santa Rosa (17-0-5), the state's lone unbeaten side, is their foe in Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal.
The other games: Canyons (16-5-2) vs. Fresno City (15-4-3) in a men's semi at 1 p.m., and San Bernardino Valley (17-1-3) vs. Fresno City (19-2-2) in a women's clash at 7 p.m.
Christen Press possesses nearly every meaningful record in the annals of Stanford University women's soccer -- except the one she most desires.
The senior striker from Palos Verdes Estates has been the nation's most prolific scorer over the past four years, and her exploits in front of the net have played a huge part in prodding the Cardinal to three successive College Cup final fours.
Now it's time to win.
Press, who leads the nation with 26 goals in 22 games, leads top-ranked Stanford (20-0-2) into this weekend's College Cup in Cary, N.C., and after falling to North Carolina in last year's title game, only one outcome is acceptable.
"We were all very disappointed [to lose last year], and I think we're in a season where it's the national championship or be disappointed again,” she said. "It's not impossible to have a successful year [without the title]. It would just be unsatisfying."
The Cardinal takes on Boston College (17-6-1) in a semifinal Friday (ESPNU, 3:30 p.m.), with a title-game matchup against Notre Dame (19-2-2) or Ohio State (17-4-1) looming Sunday (ESPN2, 9 a.m.).
Press, the only serious contender for every national player-of-the-year award, has been virtually unstoppable this season: She's had a goal or assist in all but four of the Cardinal's games, posted seven multigoal games -- three in her last seven outings -- and dazzled foes as the signature player in a deep, talented Stanford lineup.
Her 26 goals tied the school single-season mark set last year by Kelley O'Hara, and she set career records for goals, points and assists this season. The single-season assist record is hers, too, with 16 last year.
"Christen has been amazing all four years at Stanford," Cardinal coach Paul Ratcliffe said. "She's got the highest level of skill that you can have, I think. Great striker of the ball with both feet, and she's a goalscorer. She's got that knack. And that's hard to teach."
Icon SMI, Getty Images
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, right, says UCLA coach Jill Ellis, left, has an unfair advantage by being able to coach players in the national team system.
Expect fireworks when USC’s and UCLA’s women’s soccer teams renew their feud Friday night at the Coliseum -- and not only because it’s USC and UCLA.
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, who guided the Women of Troy to the NCAA title in his first season in charge, has decried the “competitive advantage” he says his UCLA counterpart, Jill Ellis, enjoys through her association with the U.S. national teams program.
“It needs to be said,” Khosroshahin said on the eve of this campaign, in which his team is 8-4-3 (1-2-1 in the Pac-10) and has been in and out of the national rankings. “Everyone talks about it, but no one’s willing to come out and say it. I’m willing to say it now.”
And Ellis, who has taken the Bruins to seven successive College Cup final fours and eight in 10 years, isn’t completely dismissive of Khosroshahin’s allegations. But the force of his comments naturally bothers her, and it will be interesting to see how civil is their pre- or postgame handshake.
Khosroshahin said he was unhappy with the direction of the U.S. national teams program, with which Ellis has been associated since 2000, and that her 19-month tenure as head coach of the U.S. under-20 women’s national team -- and ongoing position as an assistant to full U.S. women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage -- has afforded her time with elite UCLA players during times the NCAA doesn’t allow coaches contact with their players.
NCAA provisions allow national team coaches to work with their players at these times -- primarily during the summer -- within the national team programs. Ellis’ team that reached the quarterfinals, a disappointing finish, at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany included three UCLA players: junior forward Sydney Leroux, sophomore midfielder Zakiya Bywaters and freshman midfielder Jenna Richmond.