Two weeks ago in a tournament in Brazil, USF men’s soccer coach John Hackworth served as an assistant to national Under-17 team coach John Ellinger.
Wednesday at the USF Soccer Stadium, Hackworth and Ellinger were on opposite sides, as Hackworth’s Bulls took on the national youth team in a spring practice match.
Hackworth came away the winner against his boss, as the Bulls took an early lead and held on for a 3-1 win, avenging last year’s 4-1 loss.
“They’ve got some outstanding players there, and typically they beat almost all the college teams they play,” Hackworth said. “So in that regard, I’m proud of the way we played. I thought we, for the first time this spring, brought it all, which was nice.”
The victory was USF’s first of the spring, following losses to Barry University, MLS clubs Kansas City and Colorado, as well as Finnish club team Mypa.
Midfielder Jeff Thwaites gave the Bulls an early lead with a shot from five yards out in the first half, and followed that up with a penalty kick to give USF a 2-0 advantage at halftime.
Drew Harrison brought one back for the nationals with a blistering 30-yard strike with 22 minutes left, but Brandon Streicher tacked on an insurance goal in the 77th minute, assisted by J.P. Pagano.
Ellinger was impressed by the level of play by the Bulls.
“USF is a strong program. They’ve made gains, obviously, since John’s been here,” Ellinger said. “The quality of play is very strong now.”
Ellinger is not used to being on the losing end. The U-17 team plays many of the best collegiate teams in the country and wins almost every time. By Hackworth’s count, the U-17s have only ever lost to Furman, Clemson and USF.
“They have some players there that will be making a lot of money in two years … and the rest of them will be the top recruits in the country,” Hackworth said. “If we can win a game like this, we can beat anybody.”
Ellinger said, “It’s a good experience for the guys, and we know when we come here that they (the Bulls) try to play. It’s not just a kick-fest or anything like that, so it’s a good soccer game. That’s why we play South Florida on a regular basis.”
The Bulls wind up the spring with their annual Alumni Game on April 4. Hackworth said he is also trying to arrange for the Bulls to play Florida Southern next Tuesday – but he won’t be here to see them.
He leaves for France today, where he will again team with Ellinger as the U-17 team takes part in the Montaigue Tournament, beginning Sunday until April 1.
- Contact Khari Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org