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An easy choice for Negalha

The son of Portuguese parents, new USF assistant men’s soccer coach Jeff Negalha agonized over whom to support when the United States met Portugal in the World Cup last summer.

His decision to join the Bulls was much simpler.

“All I was waiting for was either a yes or no — once the yes came I accepted right there and then. It was a done deal — no doubts,” Negalha said.

The former assistant at NCAA Division II University of South Carolina Spartanburg’s program, Negalha joined the Bulls’ coaching staff Monday.

The former goalkeeper cited the opportunity to work with Bulls coach George Kiefer and the reputation of the men’s soccer program as his motivation to bring his three-year association with USCS to a close and head south.

“The program, being a member of C-USA — one of the top conferences — located in the Tampa Bay area, is very attractive. These factors will help us attract top student-athletes,” Negalha said.

Brought in to replace Mike Duncan, who resigned in December, Negalha first met Kiefer on the recruiting trail. It was at these meetings Kiefer realized he had found a kindred spirit.

“I wanted a guy that was on the same page when he goes out to recruit. I’ve dealt with Jeff, and he and I tended to like similar players,” Kiefer said.

Further investigation on Kiefer’s part convinced him that he had found his man.

“I talked to some key people that we both used to recruit, and I hear nothing but good things about him,” said Kiefer. “He’s very aggressive and very thorough in the recruiting process.”

Similar to Kiefer’s background at University of Connecticut, Negalha was regarded as a talented recruiter and was responsible for many day-to-day coaching activities at USCS.

“At South Carolina, he was in a position where he worked for a head coach who gave him a lot of freedom,” Kiefer said.

“He just brings a special quality. On his first day, he worked from 7 in the morning til 11 at night, so he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.”

Negalha’s role at USF will be to assist Kiefer in recruiting and day-to-day operations.

The new assistant’s experience in coaching goalkeepers and his fluency in Portuguese were further selling points, said Kiefer, who has previously targeted Brazil as a possible recruiting ground.

As assistant, Negalha, who also played between the posts for the Rifles, helped guide USCS to an NCAA Division II Elite 8 appearance and a No. 5 ranking in 2002. He is also credited with the recruitment of 2002 Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year Marlon Grant, and Freshman of the Year Jorge Atehortua, both of whom received All-South Region honors. When reflecting on his coaching career, however, Negalha is far from satisfied.

“Going to the Elite Eight last year at Spartanburg and being ranked as high as No. 5 was an accomplishment. All those things are great, but the bottom line is we’re in this for something — we’re in it to win a national championship,” said Negalha.

“If I do not win a national championship, I will not be gratified.”

Clearly, Kiefer has detected the same burning ambition in his new appointee.

“As a player, he lost in the final of the Division II national championship. He’s never won a national championship, but he has that feeling in his stomach. He wants to win at a high level,” Kiefer said.

“I knew he was not going to be happy finishing second and third in C-USA. If you have your staff hating to lose, it tends to filter down to the players.”