Late surge lifts Mexico's national team over USC

Times Staff Writer

There might not be any Marigol, but there will be more Mora.

Mexico Coach Leonardo Cuellar is preparing his team as if forward Maribel Dominguez, the most accomplished player in that country's history, will not be available for upcoming Olympic qualifiers. In Dominguez's absence, former UCLA standout Iris Mora has emerged as the team's offensive force.

Mora scored a goal and helped set up the winner as Mexico defeated USC, 3-1, Friday night at the Coliseum in front of a pro-Mexico crowd of 3,217. The game was tied until Mexico scored two goals in a span of three minutes late in the match -- the winner by Leticia Villapando in the 79th minute and another one by Mora in the 82nd minute.

"We haven't had Maribel a lot these last four years and we've shown that we're able to survive without her," Cuellar said of Dominguez. "She's an extraordinary person that brings a lot of interesting things with her, but we need to contemplate the possibility that she might not be allowed to play."

Dominguez is playing in the Spanish league, and her club, Euromat-Estartit, indicated it did not want to be without her for a long period. Cuellar said he won't know if she'll be with Mexico for April's Olympic qualifiers in until mid-March.

Mora, who was absent from the national team while completing her studies at UCLA, recently rejoined the national team in January. And the 26-year-old forward seems to have stepped into the role vacated by Dominguez.

The Trojans are the defending national champions but were playing their first match since the championship game in December.

USC's goal was scored by Megan Ohai on a header off a corner kick in the 60th minute.

"In the second half we got our speed going but made a couple of mistakes in the back and they punished us for it," USC Coach Ali Khosroshahin said.

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jaime.cardenas@latimes.com

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