The feeling of comaraderie is at an all-time high for the men’s soccer team, and it’s only the fourth week of the season. Not only is USF the top team in C-USA, but also the talk of the conference as its players continue to nab acclamations to their performance.
For the third week in a row, the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week is a Bull. This week sophomore defender Kareem Smith nabs the award from his goalkeeper, Dane Brenner, who had won it the previous two weeks.
Smith received the award for shutting down St. Louis scoring threat Will John and holding him to only three shots Saturday and notching a 70-yard goal against Stetson last Wednesday.
But just like his teammate before him, Smith won’t take all the credit. He is sharing the award with Memphis goalkeeper Sebastian Vecchio, but he would rather share it with his defensemen.
“It feels good to get recognized,” Smith said. “I think our defense is really jelling. We have a really strong back line, unlike in the past where we were up and down the field.
“Blake (Sharpe) and I are both in the back, but everyone calls their own shots. I really think that I got (the award) because of everyone else’s help.”
Coach George Kiefer knows that a fully functional backfield will come in handy Wednesday, when No. 19 USF will travel to FAU Field in Boca Raton to face the Owls, a team that has been a bit of a surprise to the Bulls in the past, including last year’s close match: a 4-3 double overtime win at USF Soccer Stadium. The match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“Florida Atlantic is a tough team,” Kiefer said. “They are highly motivated. In a lot of people’s minds, FAU and USF are the two schools, when it comes to soccer. A lot of guys (on FAU) wanted to play (at USF). They will be highly motivated to prove something to us.”
Kiefer used FAU’s motivation to feed his players his own motivation, telling the Bulls that the key to winning is putting themselves on the other side of the ball.
“I made the guys aware of (FAU’s motivation),” Kiefer said. “I’m at a point where I trust the guys and when it needs to be business, it’s business. So (USF) needs to put themselves into the shoes of (FAU’s) players and prove something to us.”
FAU will pose a tough match for USF, because last Wednesday the Owls knocked No. 25 FIU out of the ranking by winning 2-0.
“That’s toughness to be beat FIU at home,” Kiefer said. “So, we all know what we’re up against.”
After consecutive 2-2 ties with Stetson and St. Louis, the Bulls will be looking for a spark on offense but will have to face a tough opponent in the form of FAU goalkeeper Anders Granstad, the Atlantic Sun Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
The Owls netminder shut out FIU with three saves and has posted the lowest GAA in A-Sun Conference with 0.93.