Catarina Macario had a foot in all three of Stanford’s first-half goals in a top-three matchup in Los Angeles. The junior forward tallied an early assist, then scored twice to regain the Cardinal lead.
After three first-half lead changes, No. 2 Stanford (8-1, 1-0 Pac-12) staved off No. 3 USC (7-1-1, 0-1 Pac-12) in the conference opener for a 3-2 win.
USC’s Julia Bingham was called for a foul in the 14th minute, and Macario was called upon to deliver the free kick. The reigning Hermann Trophy winner lofted the ball to the back post for junior forward Madison Haley to finish with a diving header. The assist was Macario’s team-leading seventh of the season, and the goal moved Haley into sole possession of third place on the team.
The Trojans battled back with two goals of their own to briefly claim the lead. In the 21st minute, forward Penelope Hocking took over on a loose ball in midfield, and Tara McKeown slipped behind the defense for a one-touch finish past senior goalkeeper Lauren Rood. The goal was McKeown’s eighth of the season.
Just 1:44 later, Hocking found herself unmarked in the box, and defender Natalie Ward wasted no time putting in a cross to the star Trojan. Hocking had time to settle the ball before confidently finishing her eighth goal.
Likewise, USC lost contain of Macario, who received a pass from junior left back Jojo Harber near midfield in the 27th minute. She then exploded to create her own space and shot opportunity, which she buried.
Macario reclaimed the Stanford advantage with a two-touch control and shot at the top of the box with under four minutes to play in the half. Macario passed junior right back Kiki Pickett into space on the right wing, and Pickett returned the favor, finding the fellow junior in the center of the pitch. Macario’s 12th goal of the season gives her the most in the nation.
USC keeper Anna Smith faced 15 shots in the opening half, including eight from Macario and six on goal, and made three saves. The Trojans only had two first-half shots but made the most of them and scored twice. Stanford took both of the half’s corners, and committed just four fouls to USC’s eight.
Early in the second half, Macario’s final shot went off the side netting. Five minutes later, sophomore forward Abby Greubel was denied by Smith one-on-one, and the two plays combined to set the tone for a defensive battle in the second half.
Sophomore defender Naomi Girma made a pair of clearances in the 60th minute as USC pressed for an equalizer. The captain, along with her center back partner and fellow captain senior Sam Hiatt, held a potent USC side goalless in the second half to preserve the win.
Macario’s opportunity for a second-career hat trick arose in the 73rd minute, yet the free kick was cleared off the line by defender Asleigh Plumptre.
Stanford totaled 11 second half shots, and put six on goal. The Trojans took four shots but only tested Rood once, and she made her lone save of the game. Smith, meanwhile, made eight total saves, setting a career high for a second-consecutive game.
The rain that sprinkled throughout the game at McAlister Field created a muddy surface and some sloppy play. The final five minutes of action alone included three cautions. USC’s Samantha Bruder and Hocking were both shown yellow, as was sophomore forward Sophia Smith in the final minute of play.
Stanford will next face Washington State on Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. PT as part of a soccer doubleheader.
Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.