Most coaches would be elated at a 6-0 start and top-25 rankings in three different polls. But on the eve of his team?s match against Florida Atlantic, men?s soccer coach John Hackworth was less than ecstatic.
Hackworth?s Bulls were cruising with a 4-0 advantage against Conference USA rival Cincinnati Saturday, before lapsing late in the second half and allowing the Bearcats to pull within two goals.
“I?m disappointed with the way we finished the game. My expectations are higher than that,” Hackworth said after the match.
“You?re winning 4-0, you?re completely controlling and dominating the game ? at that point we were ? why do you even let a team get back into it? Why do you even let them have any kind of chances? We changed our whole game, and that I don?t like.”
So at the start of practice Monday, in addition to preparing for the matchup with the Owls today at 6 p.m. at the USF Soccer Stadium, the Bulls addressed their problems with closing out the Cincinnati match. Hackworth said the breakdown against the Bearcats will end up being a good thing for his team.
“There?s nothing better than an experience to learn from,” Hackworth said. “Nothing I do in training, nothing we say, can be better than the actual game experience they get. And I really think that?s going to turn out to be the best thing that could have happened for us because I don?t think our guys are going to take it for granted next time.”
By beating the Bearcats and maintaining their unbeaten record, the Bulls (6-0, 1-0 in C-USA) rose to No. 11 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Collegesoccer.com polls, and retained their No. 14 ranking in the Soccer America poll. USF is also ranked No. 1 in the South Region by the NSCAA.
The defeat of Cincinnati was the first win in a conference opener during Hackworth?s four years at USF, and also marked the return of sophomore defender Aaron Ortega, who had missed the first five matches due to suspension. Ortega came on as a second-half substitute.
“I?m thrilled to have Aaron back,” Hackworth said.
“I think he?ll make a huge contribution to our team the rest of the way.”
The Bulls have a score to settle, so to speak, against Florida Atlantic. On Sept. 13 last year, FAU beat the Bulls 2-1 in Boca Raton, getting the game-winner from the penalty spot. The Bulls had a late equalizer disallowed because of an offside call.
“Last year it was a heartbreaking loss for us,” Hackworth said. “We outshot them, outplayed them, had two goals called back that were offsides.”
The Owls (2-2, 1-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference) beat Belmont 3-1 Friday, and are led by Frans Ronning and Emiliano Aranes with three goals each.
Hackworth said the Bulls will be eager to prove themselves against FAU after Saturday?s letdown.
“One thing is, when you have a game that doesn?t go the way you wanted, the first thing you want to do is get another chance to play. So I think in that sense this is great and I?m glad,” he said.
Khari Williams covers men?s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org