It’s tough when you keep winning.
In spite of a perfect 3-0-0 start to the season, coupled with three shutouts, the Bulls’ defensive displays are still a cause for concern for USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer. Amid all plaudits, said Kiefer, no one wants to hear the story behind the stats.
“I know I sound like a broken record,” Kiefer said. “People laugh and say, ‘Well, you have three shutouts,’ but you have to evaluate it by how many chances you gave up, and right now we’ve given up too many chances.”
Accordingly, as the Bulls go into this weekend’s AmeriSuites/Reebok South Florida Soccer Classic with matches against UNC-Greensboro Friday and Stony Brook Sunday, Kiefer has made improved defensive displays a priority.
“I’m anxious for us to have a good match defensively, to be organized and not give chances up,” he said.
Of particular concern to Kiefer is Friday’s matchup against the Spartans (1-1-0), whom Kiefer regards as the Bulls’ toughest opponent to date.
“They are a very tough team to play against,” he said. “If we give Greensboro as many chances as we’ve been giving other teams, I tell you we will not win this game.”
The Southern Conference team opened its season with a comfortable 3-0 victory against Mercer, with All-League choice Chris Goos netting a brace.
The Spartans followed that with a 3-1 defeat at Clemson. Last season UNC-Greensboro contested for the Southern Conference championship, losing 2-1 to Furman, to whom they are again slated to finish runners-up.
On Sunday, the Bulls go up against a team from Kiefer’s old stomping ground, Stony Brook. The Long Island side has lost all three of its matches this season, conceding 10 goals in the process. Kiefer, a former UConn assistant, will use the tourney opener between Stony Brook and Stetson Friday to augment his local knowledge of the Seawolves.
“I know some of their players being from that part of the country,” said Kiefer. “I’m pretty familiar with how they’ll play and what they’ll do.”
The fourth team contesting the tourney is Stetson (0-4-0), which the Bulls bested by a single goal in their season opener. Victory in the tourney will be decided on wins. If two teams are tied, they will be split on their head-to-head record. If that proves inconclusive, first, goal difference and then goals scored will be used to determine the outright winner.
Sunday’s outing will be their fourth match in eight days, a bulge in their schedule that Kiefer has been mindful of from Day 1 of his tenure.
“The first day I met with them in preseason I talked to them about this segment of the season because I saw it as a very difficult one,” Kiefer said. “I wanted to make it an emphasis of ours to get through this successfully.”
Chris O’Donnell covers men’s soccer and can be reached at email@example.com