Coming off another short practice week, the USF men’s soccer team (6-2-2) faces one of its biggest challenges of the year, the No. 8 St. John’s Red Storm (7-2-2), in its third Big East game of the season.
There is little doubt that the Bulls are slowly but surely building an impressive resume, as the Red Storm are the sixth ranked team they will face this season. They have played their best in the biggest games, as the Bulls have four wins and just one loss in five games against ranked opponents.
The Bulls are also coming off a Tuesday night road victory over Florida Gulf Coast, which is ranked No. 25 in the nation and had a school record 1,556 people on hand for the game. USF coach George Kiefer said he is not worried about the shortened week of practice.
“I think at this point in the season is when we get into more of a rhythm,” he said. “From this point on, we’ll be playing on those shorter weeks, and it’s probably better for us as a team.”
Despite the skill of his team’s upcoming opponent, Kiefer is not worried about Saturday night.
“It’ll really be about staying sharp,” he said. “(St. John’s) played on Tuesday as well (a 0-0 tie with Brown) and they have to fly all the way here. Throw in the difference in turf that they’ll be dealing with, and there’s a lot of good things going for us for Saturday night.”
The Red Storm is far from inexperienced in playing difficult opponents, having also played five ranked teams. Their record against those teams, however, is slightly less impressive than the Bulls’. St. John’s is 3-2-1 against ranked opponents, with the victories coming against then-No. 11 Notre Dame, then-No. 25 Iona and then-No. 8 William & Mary.
Junior midfielder Dom Dwyer is in the midst of a scoring hot streak, and the Bulls will need him at his best against the Red Storm.
“The best thing about Dom is his finishing ability,” Kiefer said. “He is really calm and does a good job of that. The rest of the team loves his hard work that he does off of the ball, which sets him up for better chances.”
Even though the level of competition in this game makes it important for both teams, neither side would be affected in a major way by a loss. Both teams have only played two Big East games, and both have won one of the two games. USF sits atop the Red Division in the Big East standings, with St. John’s just a point behind.
“Each season is kind of a train ride, and each game that we play is just another stop on the way,” Kiefer said. “We just have to work our hardest each game, and come out of it having learned something important.”