Forced to play with 10 men for most of the match, the USF men’s soccer team lost 3-1 to Central Florida at the USF Soccer Stadium on Wednesday night.
After losing defender Jared Vock in the 35th minute of play, USF took a 1-0 lead early in the second half but surrendered three unanswered goals to give UCF its first ever win against the Bulls.”I think we just got stagnant, and we didn’t commit to defending … we had a one-goal lead, we should have contained,” said USF midfielder Jeff Thwaites. “We should have contained players, instead we dove in. With 10 men, you have to just fall back and defend, and we didn’t.”
The Bulls (12-4) entered the match without regular starting defenders Casey Stump (knee injury) and Brian Mullins (accumulated yellow cards), and the loss of Vock did nothing to help their cause.
The freshman sweeper received his first caution in the 13th minute when he slid for a 50-50 ball and was whistled for a questionable foul on a UCF player.
Vock was ejected 22 minutes later for tugging the shirt of a Golden Knights attacker. Up to that point, Vock had played every minute of every match this season.
“We never played one minute without Vock, so that’s a huge loss for us,” USF coach John Hackworth said. “Not having Casey back there as well … you can lose one of those two guys but with two of them out, it’s hard right now. It’s like losing your quarterback your starter and then your back-up and not having a third string.”Despite being a man down, the Bulls attacked early in the second half and went ahead in the 51st minute, courtesy of Thwaites. Outside midfielder Ben Cowherd fired in a left-footed shot that goalkeeper Juuso Heikurainen batted away into the penalty area.
Thwaites, the Conference USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week along with teammate Gabriel Salgado, collected the rebound and fired into the empty net.
Thirteen minutes later, the Golden Knights (11-6) equalized when a shot by midfielder Eric Vasquez took a deflection off a USF defender and trickled past Troy Perkins in goal.
“It takes so much effort to get up a goal, that when you give up a goal, even for a tie, you know you have to work that much harder to get the win,” Thwaites said.
UCF’s leading scorer, Daniel Berhane, had a golden opportunity to put the Knights ahead in the 70th minute, but his breakaway was thwarted by Perkins who left his goal area and came up with a sharp save.
Three minutes later, Berhane didn’t make the same mistake. In an almost identical play on a counterattack following a USF corner kick, Berhane decided this time to lob into the penalty area, where Xavier Delgado headed in the eventual match winner.
“Off the corner kick, instead of just containing and delaying, dropping back, we try to win the ball at midfield down a man, and that kills you,” Hackworth said. “It’s the exact same thing we did against North Carolina (Oct. 14, 5-0 loss). It’s the exact same thing we did against Saint Louis (Oct. 20, 5-1 loss).”
Berhane completed the scoring with a penalty kick in the 84th minute. Perkins was called for a foul in his penalty area, one of many questionable whistles throughout the match, and Berhane sent his shot to the lower right corner.
“The problem was that we didn’t execute when we had the opportunity to,” Hackworth said.
“We have easy chances to go up by multiple goals, instead we blast in balls and we’re trying to score the most amazing thing. We’re not even making the last pass on breakaways. That game should have been 3-0, easy, with 10 men, and then it’s over.”
- Khari Williams covers men’s soccer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org