The University of South Florida Bulls (1-0-0) defeated the Bowling Green Falcons (0-0-1) 3-0 in the season opener Saturday.
The game was played at the University of Tampa’s Pepin Stadium because USF Soccer Stadium is undergoing a $2.7 million renovation.
The Bulls played solidly and patiently against a Falcons team that gave up possession of the ball from the first minute of the match and waited for counterattacks and free kicks close to the box to attempt to score.
The Bulls, however, moved the ball from side to side. The midfielders and forwards were in constant movement, cutting and breaking as they bode their time to find open spaces in a Bowling Green defense that at times had 10 players on its side of the field.
“The mobility is getting there. The players have a lot of freedom when it comes to being on offense since we attack with numbers,” USF coach George Kiefer said of the Bulls’ offense.
The Bulls’ lone forward, senior Zak Boggs, put the Bulls ahead in the 23rd minute after receiving the ball in the arc of the box, turning around and putting it in the far post with a violent shot, far out of the reach of Bowling Green’s goalkeeper Paul Shoemaker.
USF settled down after that goal and made sure every ball passed through sophomore offensive midfielder Bernardo Anor.
Anor offered himself as a point of reference for his teammates and leaned on the left side of the Bowling Green defense to partner up with USF left midfielder Jason Devenish and overwhelm Falcons right defender Ryan Davis.
That offensive recipe created the second goal of the match in the 65th minute, as Anor ran all the way to the left end line of the Falcons’ box and his shot ricocheted off Shoemaker right back to him to push it in and put the match out of reach.
“I think this is the result of our hard work in the preseason. I leaned on wherever I saw the open space, which happened to be the left side in this match,” Anor said. “Everybody played very well on offense tonight and made the right decisions when it came to putting the ball on goal.”
USF forward Jordan Seabrook added on in the 84th minute after pushing in a loose ball in the box, bringing the score to 3-0.
Bowling Green’s conservative approach led to no shots on goal by the Falcons, who had their best opportunity in the second half after a free kick that found a Falcon all alone in the box, as he couldn’t connect on the header to tie the match.
Bowling Green head coach Fred Thompson said USF is a Top 10, even Top 4 team, and that a team can’t open itself up to teams like that. That is why he wanted to see if he could get something on the counter and the set pieces, he added.
USF senior defender Yohance Marshall played a big part in nullifying the Falcons offense. The Bulls’ defense has to stay alert throughout the match since USF’s offensive mindset can create holes on midfield.
“We were focused and stayed tight as a unit. We held our own and look to improve as the season goes along,” Marshall said.