Bulls seek to regain top 10 rankings at UNCG

One week ago, the USF men’s soccer team was ranked in the top 10 nationally in three different polls. But a 3-0 loss to Conference USA foe No. 9 UAB Friday changed everything.

Even though the Bulls recovered with a 1-0 win two days later at East Carolina, USF (9-1, 3-1 in C-USA) fell from No. 8 in the Soccer America poll and No. 9 in the coaches’ poll to No. 18 in both polls. As for the Collegesoccer.com media poll, the Bulls dropped from No. 10 out of the poll.

Nevertheless, USF coach John Hackworth said his focus is not on the polls, especially this early in the season.

“I can’t control the polls. All I can control is hopefully getting my team ready to play, and that’s the thing that we have to concentrate the most,” Hackworth said.

The Bulls’ next two matches are at the Adidas/Spartan Classic in Greensboro, N.C. USF plays the host team, UNC-Greensboro, today at 7:30 p.m. and takes on No. 10 North Carolina Oct. 14.

The Spartans (5-4, 4-1 in the Southern Conference) are coming off a 4-1 win vs. The Citadel in their most recent match.

“They’re kinda like a sleeping dragon, to tell you the truth,” Hackworth said of the Spartans. “Their (four) losses have been to extremely good teams this year.”

UNC-Greensboro is paced by senior forward Alejandro Moreno, who is fourth on the school’s all-time list with 149 points (63 goals, 23 assists).

The No. 10 Tar Heels (8-2, 2-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) finished the 2000 season ranked No. 1, eventually losing in the NCAA Elite Eight to Indiana.

“They’re probably one of the most athletic teams in the country, but so are we in that respect. So I think it’s going to set up to be a really good game,” Hackworth said.

North Carolina returns the entire defensive unit from the 2000 squad which let in a measly 0.75 goals per contest. Central defender Danny Jackson was a second-team All American.

“If I were a player, I’d want to play in these kind of games,” Hackworth said. “And we have attracted some outstanding recruits because we have gone out and sought out this kind of competition.”

Winning both matches, and especially beating the Tar Heels, would help the Bulls climb back up the rankings. But Hackworth reiterated that his focus is not on the polls, but on the next opponent.

“We have a job to do, and that’s to beat UNCG,” he said. “Once we get through with that contest, we’ll look to focus on North Carolina. That’s our approach.”

  • Khari Williams covers men’s soccer and can be reached at oraclekhari@yahoo.com