If the Bulls’ offensive play took most of the plaudits from Saturday’s 4-0 rout of East Carolina, for USF coach George Kiefer, achieving a second successive shutout was equally as important.
The coach will be looking for more of the same as the Bulls go on the road for the first time this season at Jacksonville tonight.
Since his arrival this season, Kiefer has maintained that improving defensive awareness and getting the team to defend as a unit are his top priorities.
Having inherited a schedule that includes 10 road trips out of a total of 17 regular season matches, it is little wonder Kiefer has focused on defense.
“One of the emphases that we have put on (scheduling) this year, is to become a good road team, and this will be the first (road) test,” Kiefer said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the guys respond to that.”Kiefer’s main selection quandaries will center on Ben Cowherd’s return from suspension.
If Cowherd starts, it may well be at the expense of Brandon Streicher, who filled the left-wing spot for much of Saturday’s game.
Kiefer will also have to decide if Gabriel Salgado’s influential second-half display against the Pirates was enough for the senior to regain his starting place, probably at the expense of Rustin Kluge.
Jacksonville (1-1-0) opened its season with a comfortable win against Brewton Parker before losing narrowly on the road to No. 13 South Carolina in a match notable for the 11 saves made by Dolphins keeper Greg Williams.
Jacksonville returns 19 players, including seven starters as it looks to build on its 2001 season, when coach Bob Moullin guided them to the Atlantic Sun Championship game following a third-place finish in the regular season.
The Bulls’ last meeting with the Dolphins was in October 2000, when a Salgado goal in overtime secured a 2-1 victory for USF, improving the Bulls’ record vs. Jacksonville to 30-8-1.
Kiefer, however, is not expecting an easy ride against a team whose exploits in 2001 saw it tabbed to finish third in the Atlantic Sun Conference in the league’s coaches’ poll.
“Jacksonville is going to be a very tough game,” said Kiefer. “To rebound off (the win over ECU) and lock in on Jacksonville is going to take good leadership.