A rain-soaked pitch didn’t slow down the tempo of the men’s soccer match Wednesday night against Cincinnati as the Bulls won 3-2 in extra time.
The victory was the 60th of coach George Kiefer’s career and provided the six-year coach with plenty of drama to celebrate the milestone with.
“It’s great, but I’m going to need a lot more than 60 to keep my job for a long time,” Kiefer said. “We had to do it dramatic fashion. I thought we had a lot of things to feel good about tonight, especially the character we showed to win a game like this.”
For the second time this season the Bulls won a match in extra time against a conference opponent. Most importantly for USF, the win seals its place in the Big East tournament.
“At this point in the year that’s what you want to see,” Kiefer said. “The guys kept at it, and at the end of the day we came away with three points. We’re pretty much guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament and now we have to play for positioning.”
The first half started out as a battle of the midfield with the Bearcats holding an advantage in possession. USF struggled to get forward consistently, but when they did, opportunities were there.
After the Bulls earned a corner kick in the 19th minute, Neaves stepped up and delivered a ball that sailed through the box where defender Andre Mittoo got a foot to it and easily gave USF a 1-0 lead. It was Mittoo’s second goal of the season and provided the early start coach Kiefer was looking for from his team.
“I thought it was important to set the tone of the game early,” Kiefer said. “It shows a lot about the guys to respond to getting beat 3-1 at Rutgers Saturday by coming out and get a 2-0 lead.”
Eleven minutes later, one of the best chances of the half passed by the Bulls when a shot from 30 yards out by Bernardo Anor was blocked by the goalkeeper and rolled to forward Jordan Seabrook. The junior forward sent a laser shot across the face of the goal that was wide of the far post and too fast for Schoendorf to catch up with on the far side.
The team would make up for it just four minutes later, however, when Schoendorf and Neaves combined for some good passing in the midfield and got the ball to freshman forward Tony Taylor. Taylor made a direct run for the Cincinnati goal and caught goalkeeper Miguel Rosales off his line. The freshman sent a high line drive over the keeper’s hands and into the back of the net to give USF a 2-0 led.
“It was nice work by the guys in the midfield to get me the ball,” Taylor said. “Once I saw the space they gave me when I turned around I just decided to take a shot.”
The game would go into halftime with USF leading 2-0. The Bulls had put five of their six first-half shots on goal, out-shooting the Bearcats 5-2.
In the 68th minute, the Bearcats got on the board when substitute Kenny Anaba received a pass from forward Patrick Baxter. The flow of the play led USF goalkeeper Diego Restrepo toward the near post but was fooled when Anaba rolled one to the far post and brought the score to 2-1.
USF failed to put a shot on goal in the second half, and at the end of regular time the game was tied 2-2.
The first overtime period yielded nothing for either team as the match turned into a possession battle.
In a second half that saw a lot of Cincinnati players sprawled all over the field nursing tired legs, the Bulls found the game winner from freshman Bernardo Anor.
Neaves put in a cross that Seabrook dumped off to Anor, who proceeded to roll a shot to the corner of the goal. The ball bounced off the far post and rolled into the goal.
“It feels incredible to score a goal like that,” Anor said. “When I kicked the ball, it rolled so slowly. I was thanking God when it went in. These extra-time games are so exhausting.”
The goal was immediately followed by coach Kiefer and the team on the bench sprinting onto the field to celebrate Anor’s game winner.
“This match was a little bit of soccer and a lot of the mental side of things,” Kiefer said. “I thought that goal was one of our better goals of the year. Jordan did a great job of playing the ball through to Bernardo and to have a freshman finish a goal like that is impressive.”