The South Florida men’s soccer team will embark on one of its toughest schedules ever in 2003, and they will do so without team captain Troy Perkins who has quit the team.
Perkins said his decision was mainly prompted by general unhappiness, but also criticized the coaching staff’s fixation with recruiting.
One of only three players nominated to the NCSAA All-South Third-Team in 2002, Perkins informed coach George Kiefer of his decision to quit at the conclusion of the Bulls’ spring training.
The junior, who was ever-present throughout Kiefer’s inaugural season, said the overlying factor behind his departure was he had simply stopped enjoying himself on the field.
“I wasn’t fitting in. I wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t think that was a good place for me to be,” Perkins said. “It’s nothing against Coach Kiefer, I just didn’t feel comfortable.”
The 21-year-old, however, was critical of what he perceived as an overemphasis on recruiting.
“I didn’t feel that the team was the top focus everywhere,” Perkins said. “I thought that recruiting was the big thing, and the team wasn’t a priority.”
According to Perkins, the team was often unaware of Kiefer’s whereabouts, something that made his position as team captain difficult.
“We really didn’t know where Kiefer was and when he would be back. I felt out of the loop,” Perkins said. “Being captain of the team you should be on top of everything.”
Kiefer, who was responsible for recruitment at the University of Connecticut where he served as an assistant, signed 10 players for the 2003 campaign, including the transfer of goalkeeper Peter Lechak from the Huskies. With only six graduating seniors, the influx of new players was accommodated by the departure of four fringe squad members.
The coach declined to comment on Perkins’ criticism, but said he wishes Perkins success in his future career.
“I’m happy for Troy. If a good player wants to look to do other things, you’re not going to stop him. I wish him the best,” Kiefer said.
For the other members of the team, the loss of their team captain was completely unexpected.
“It was a surprise. Nothing was discussed previously with the team,” freshman forward Hunter West said. “He was our captain; he was the leader of our team. If he’s unhappy with the team, it’s his decision to move on to something else.”
Perkins’ dissatisfaction with his spot on the Bulls roster pre-dates Kiefer. The Ohio-born goalkeeper was persuaded to remain on the Bulls’ team by former coach John Hackworth after his freshman season.
Perkins, who will seek a place at another college, said the 7 to 9 a.m. training schedule he has followed for three years was not conducive for an athlete to produce their best, and it left him constantly tired.
“It’s bad when your parents ask you why you sound depressed,” Perkins said. “I thought, ‘I’m only 21 years old, and if I’m not enjoying it, I’ve got to find somewhere I’m going to have fun.'”
Whoever Kiefer chooses to replace Perkins is likely to be very busy. The Bulls’ 2003 schedule bristles with quality, the highlight being the Bulls’ participation in the prestigious Furman tournament. In addition to the hosts, who ranked eighth in the final Soccer America poll, the Bulls will play a Clemson side fresh from last season’s NCAA final eight, its fourth NCAA quarter-final appearance in the last eight years.
Coming hard on the heels of the Furman invitation, the annual USF-AmeriSuites tournament includes C-USA foes Charlotte and Big East Conference side Providence. Outside of tournament and regular C-USA play, the Bulls will squeeze in road trips to Michigan and perennial top-25 program Duke.
Regardless of results, playing some of the country’s elite sides, Kiefer said, would provide invaluable preparation for conference matches.
“The schedule is a very demanding schedule,” Kiefer said. “When we get into C-USA, they’ll be tough games, but not the hardest games we’ve been in all year.”