USF men’s soccer kicked off its first of four preseason games against professional clubs Saturday when it took on the New York Red Bulls at Corbett Stadium.
The match featured three 30-minute periods, with the Red Bulls using three predetermined lineups for each period. After 90 minutes of play, USF was shutout, losing 2-0, 1-0 and 4-0. Winning, however, was never the goal of the games — it was experience.
“It’s a chance for our guys to get an understanding of tactically what’s different,” USF coach Bob Butehorn said. “Speed, what’s different. Technically, what’s different. Getting our guys composed in situations where they usually might not be.”
Through different connections, Butehorn was able to secure preseason matches against the Red Bulls, Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Tampa Bay Rowdies, with hopes to add more by the end of the spring season.
The Bulls will play at Corbett Stadium against the Fire on Feb. 5, against the Rowdies on March 9 and against former Bull Marcus Epps with the Union at Joe Dimaggio Sports Complex in Clearwater on Feb. 7.
With a roster containing so many young players —12 freshmen and eight sophomores — the games against pro squads are all the more important, according to Butehorn.
“In the past, my guys in general have learned countless lessons just in these games that they don’t realize until their second or third year,” Butehorn said. “It is different than the college game, no doubt. My team’s basically freshman, so it can only pay dividends long term.”
Before Butehorn joined USF in the December 2016 he was Florida Gulf Coast’s men’s soccer coach for 10 seasons.
In his time leading the Eagles, Butehorn’s players not only gained valuable experience playing against pro clubs, but also got to meet and play against some of soccer’s all-time legends.
“If you go into (assistant coach) Henry’s (Apaloo) office, there’s a jersey of the first game ever that (NYCFC coach) Patrick Vieira coached and I was the coach against him,” Butehorn said. “It’s in there and there’s all of the signatures on the jersey. (David) Villa was there, (Frank) Lampard as well.”
Butehorn’s daughter even got to hang out with Italian legend Andrea Pirlo at the game, while Butehorn’s Eagles lost 1-0, with Villa scoring the matches lone goal.
Though they won’t face Pirlo, Villa or Lampard, the current Bulls will face off against World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger and USA internationals Brandon Vincent, Matt Polster, Dax McCarty, CJ Sapong and Alejandro Bedoya in their remaining spring games.
“It’s been kind of the way I like to do things,” Butehorn said. “Take advantage of what we can when it comes to getting ourselves measured up against the pro teams and players. They’re getting an idea of what their team looks like, and I’m doing the same.”