Men’s soccer coach George Kiefer helped lead USF to a Big East championship in soccer last season – the first in program history.
The Bulls, however, lose two key components from last year’s team: forward Jordan Seabrook and defender Yohance Marshall, who both moved on to professional careers.
Despite these losses, the Bulls were one of four Big East schools ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason top 25, landing at No. 11.
With expectations high, Kiefer spoke with the media at USF soccer media day about defending the Big East title, the loss of Marshall and Seabrook and the upcoming season.
Media: What are your expectations for the team this year?
George Kiefer: The expectations are that (the team) comes out focused each day. If we can go out everyday and get a little bit better, we’ll be headed in the right direction. My expectation is that (the players) are all part of something that’s bigger than themselves and that they all enjoy themselves.
M: Is there any thought right now about the NCAA tournament, or are you just worried about the Big East?
GK: I don’t like to use the word worry, but (we’re) looking forward to the Big East. As far as the NCAA (tournament), there are a lot of teams that start the season thinking about the end of the season and then they find themselves not in the postseason.
M: Losing guys like Marshall, Seabrook and (midfielder) Kevon Neaves, how tough will it be to fill those voids?
GK: Those guys have been staples here, and I built very strong relationships with those guys … They were four year starters, so it’s a little bit of a different feeling right now. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that.
At the same time, I think if those guys are looking at the program right now, they’re looking at it and saying, ‘I helped it move forward.’ They all left knowing more could be done, so I feel good about our team. I think they all helped us build something that is really strong right now.
M: In terms of the identity of the team, coming off a Big East title year, is there any comparison between this year and last year’s team?
GK: There’s no comparison from last year – it’s a completely new team. I think where we’re at as a program is that we can go out and find players that fit into our system, where four or five years ago we were just trying to get the best players.
I feel like our system will be the same … we don’t change how we play with other teams or anything. It can be predictable in a sense but at the same time it’s very effective.
M: In terms of style of play, where do you see your team being?
GK: I think this team’s priority will be that all 11 players’ responsibilities are to defend. More importantly, I think if you look at the diversity of the team, the amount of good American players we have, top South American players we have, top Caribbean players we have – that’s what I love about it.
You can really get a good style going for people to come out and enjoy. You blend South American football with Caribbean football with American soccer and it can be a lot of fun, and it can be very attractive.