Renowned for his ability to spot talent during his spell as assistant at UConn, USF soccer coach George Kiefer recruited heavily last winter and he is not about to let that hard work go to waste.
Eight of his nine recruits will be in starting positions tonight when the No. 25 Bulls host Florida Atlantic. Despite the apparent emphasis on new talent, Kiefer said he is looking to the older players on the team to become leaders on and off the pitch.
“For this class to show potential, the guys that are here need to keep them by their necks and make sure they don’t let them get out of control,” Kiefer said.
Since the announcement of his original recruiting class, Kiefer has added four more newcomers to the list, rounding out the total number of freshmen and transfers at 13. That number constitutes more than half the roster. Bringing the two sets of athletes together has been something that Kiefer has been concentrating on.
“It has been a big focus of ours,” Kiefer said. “The little things that you can do in preseason are organize them with roommates — upper class and lower class. Certainly in training and in other things, you mix the exercises up so you don’t get little cliques forming. But the biggest thing is talking to the older guys, and I still say now, no matter who starts or who plays, the guys that are going to lead this team are the guys that have been here for two, three, four years.”
Despite the loss of seven seniors on last season’s squad, the Bulls’ biggest loss was the defection of goalkeeper and captain Troy Perkins, who unexpectedly left citing general dissatisfaction. Perkins set a school record in his sophomore year with 112 saves as well as recording seven shutouts. Sophomore Dane Brenner and UConn transfer Peter Lechak are in competition for the starting position. Kiefer has not yet decided who will be his No. 1 man.
“It might be the toughest decision we have right now,” Kiefer said. “Both of them are playing better than we thought they would.”Brenner, who has yet to play for USF, impressed his coaches in practice last season.
“Dane really turned it on at the end of the fall last year,” Kiefer said. “Obviously we had (Perkins), but he opened our eyes a lot in training.”
Another player that has impressed coaches has been sophomore Hunter West. The forward, who has been named preseason All-Conference, underwent surgery in May to remove a piece of calcified bone from his pelvis. Although he is not completely recovered, West has resumed workouts and is slated to start in tonight’s game.
“(He is) not a 100 percent, but he is a 100 percent for less time lets just put it that way,” Kiefer said. “We are just going to watch him and not let him go too long.”
If an overhaul of his roster was not enough, Kiefer also had turn over in his coaching staff as well, bringing in three assistant coaches. The most notable of the new coaches is Bob Dikrainian, who Kiefer coached with and played for. The other two are Rui Fernandes and Jeff Negalha.
“All of them have been at places that have won championships. All three of them know what it takes,” Kiefer said. “(They) know the time it takes in the office, the time it takes on the road. They have all been around winning programs, so they are going to bring that to the table.”