Heading into today’s home finale, the USF men’s soccer team is second in the Conference USA standings. The Bulls are also less than a week removed from their biggest win of the season against then-No. 14 Saint Louis.
But for USF coach George Kiefer, the Bulls (9-3, 4-2 in Conference USA) may as well be in the C-USA cellar.
“Right now, we’re not the best team in Conference USA, nor do we have the reputation of being the best team in Conference USA,” Kiefer said. “And I want them to understand that. The thing that I’m trying to stress to them is that they have the reputation that when things get a little physical, or when games get a little tough, they tend to crack a little bit.”
Kiefer said he’s more concerned about today’s 5 p.m. game vs. Louisville than he was before the Saint Louis match on Saturday, despite Louisville’s record (3-10-2, 1-3-1). In his experience, Kiefer said, teams tend to be vulnerable after a big victory. Also, he added, several injured players will return to the Cardinals’ lineup today.
“I don’t know if we know how to win yet; I don’t know if we have good leaders to not look past Louisville,” Kiefer said. “We’re going to get a lot of questions answered (today).”
Six seniors will make their final appearance at the USF Soccer Stadium today: forward Gabriel Salgado; midfielders Kevin Cowan, Ben Cowherd and Jeff Thwaites; and defenders Brian Mullins and Casey Stump.
Assistant coach Mike Duncan said he will miss Stump’s calm demeanor on the field, and he called Mullins an “ironman” for recovering from two anterior cruciate ligament injuries in five years.
“Ben (Cowherd) is a true character,” Duncan said. “He does love the game, but he’s definitely an interesting character. His personality will be missed, for sure.
“Gabe (Salgado), I’m going to miss his flair, his smile and his personality. He just loves the game.”
Cowan, 25, came to USF last fall by way of Mt. Olive (N.C.) College and the military and has played mostly at outside midfield.
“Kevin is a person that’s going to have a very successful career in whatever he does because he knows what work ethic means by being in the Army,” Duncan said. “He’ll graduate at Christmas, so three-and-a-half years and he’s done.”
Kiefer said if the seniors end their career with only one NCAA win last season to their credit, it will be disappointing.
“I met with the seniors before meeting with the entire team (in August),” Kiefer said. “(I told them) that we were going to take a picture of them and put it in the locker room, and underneath it we were going to describe what type of career they had.
“At this point, they’ve won one NCAA game in their entire career. The positive to that is there are a lot of seniors who have not even been in the NCAA Tournament. The negative to that is the number one is not a great number.”
Gil grabs honor
Freshman Brian Gil was named to the Soccer America Team of the Week for scoring the winner against Saint Louis on Saturday.
Gil took the field in the 83rd minute with the score tied at 1, and four minutes later his left-footed shot gave the Bulls a 2-1 victory. Gil is the first Bull to be named to the Soccer America Team since September of last season when Jason Cudjoe was honored. The midfielder has scored three goals and tallied one assist this season.