The USF men’s soccer team ended a two-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory at UCF Tuesday with what coach George Kiefer termed the Bulls’ best defensive effort all year.
“Our defense was the best it has been all year,” Kiefer said. “UCF has five or six good attackers. We really defended well as a group. And (goalkeeper) Troy (Perkins) was very consistent in the air.”
Defensive effort hadn’t been the Bulls’ problem in their two prior defeats as USF (7-3) was blanked away from home by Conference USA foes Charlotte and Cincinnati. The Bulls’ attack was nearly invisible against the Bearcats Saturday, when USF mustered one shot on goal.
The Bulls’ offense came alive Tuesday, starting with a chance created by Brandon Streicher. The sophomore midfielder was taken down in the penalty box in the 43rd minute, which resulted in a Bulls’ penalty kick.
Senior defender Casey Stump took the kick and fired it straight into the back of the net when UCF’s keeper Ryan McIntosh guessed incorrectly.
The Bulls had plenty of other opportunities, mostly created by freshman forward Hunter West, USF’s leading scorer. West entered the match with nine goals in nine games. After Kiefer said his star freshman was trying too hard, the Bradenton native was loose and on the attack Tuesday.
In the fourth minute, West fed Gabe Salgado with a golden chance and McIntosh was forced off his feet to keep the game scoreless. West had an opening for a goal in the 16th minute when his shot off a Chris Raye diagonal cross compelled McIntosh to make another save. West’s shot in the 34th minute sailed over the near post after Salgado connected with a streaking West up the left sideline.
West finally reached double digits in goals when he put USF in front 2-1 in the 63rd minute. McIntosh attempted to contest West on a breakaway, but the Bulls’ freshman lofted a parabolic shot over the keeper’s head before the two collided.
Brain Gil tallied the Bulls’ third goal, with West registering his first assist.
“It was definitely an emphasis (to get more scoring chances),” Kiefer said. “We were very quick in transition, and actually that second goal was on a counter.”
The victory brought USF’s mark to 3-2 in road matches, ending the Bulls’ skid away from home at two after 1-0 and 2-0 setbacks to Charlotte and Cincinnati, respectively.
“We needed that victory,” Kiefer said. “It could have been real disappointing to have three straight losses. That would have been tough to rebound from.”
The Bulls will have to stay accustomed to being away from home as USF’s five-game road swing concludes Saturday against Marquette.
“I think it’s good because we’re going to need to win on the road,” Kiefer said. “If we can’t win on the road, then we don’t deserve to go very far.”