The off-season losses for the Saint Louis men’s soccer team were substantial.
Brad Davis, the most feared playmaker in Conference USA? Gone. Dipsy Selolwane, the mercurial forward who led the nation in goals last year? Ditto. Defensive stalwart Marty Tappel and standout goalkeeper John Politis? Both have moved on.
And where does that leave the Billikens this year? Right where they always seem to be: on top of the conference.
“They’re Saint Louis, they can rebuild,” said USF assistant coach Jim Felix, whose team hosts Saint Louis on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the USF Soccer Stadium. “They’ve got a great reputation, it’s a school that kids want to go to. They’re good.”
Yes, they are. When USF faces No. 14 Saint Louis (9-2-1, 4-1 in C-USA), the Bulls will attempt to arrest the Billikens’ nine-game winning streak and possibly assume C-USA supremacy. The Bulls (8-3, 3-2) are currently third in the conference standings, with the top six teams qualifying for the C-USA Tournament Nov. 14 in St. Louis.
The last time the Billikens took the field at USF, they were winning the C-USA Tournament last November before advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championship. Earlier in the season, SLU handed the Bulls their second most lopsided defeat of the year, 5-1, with Selolwane scoring four times.
“They were a handful last year,” Felix said. “They were a handful for everybody in the country. We didn’t come out and play; if you don’t come out and play against them, you’re in deep trouble from the start.”
And though many of the leaders of that team no longer suit up for SLU — including Davis, who entered the MLS after his sophomore season and finished in the top three in Rookie of the Year balloting Wednesday, and Selolwane, who plays for the Chicago Fire — the Billikens’ cupboard is not exactly bare.
Jack Jewsbury, the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, is the current league Player of the Week and was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week for his two-goal, two-assist output last week in two SLU victories. Defender Andy Pusateri was also named to the Soccer America Team, as was Nick Gannon the week before. Billikens defenders won three consecutive C-USA Player of the Week awards from Sept. 23-Oct. 7, and forward Jason Cole, a converted wingback, won the offensive award Sept. 30.
“They’ve got seven guys who contributed last year, so it’s not like they’re missing a whole lot there,” Felix said.
Saturday’s match will be the Bulls’ first home contest since Sept. 20 when they routed Memphis 4-2. In their five-game road swing since then, the Bulls went 3-2, including shutout losses at conference foes Charlotte and Cincinnati, as well as victories at UCF and Marquette in their most recent outings.
Felix said he is optimistic that “a couple thousand fans” will show up Saturday.
“We’ve got two teams that like to play soccer, and that will make it very entertaining for the fans,” he said. “It will be good soccer, it will be enjoyable soccer to watch, so it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be up-tempo.”
Khari Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org