The USF men’s soccer team is not playing a conference game this weekend, but it is definitely not considering a match against Florida International University a break.
“I would think FIU is probably is the best team we will play all year,” USF coach George Kiefer said.
The 7-2-2 FIU Golden Panthers are No.10 in the country according to College Soccer News, and their senior goalkeeper Roy Rosenberg was named Atlantic Soccer Conference goalkeeper of the week, the second time he’s been given the honor this season.
“He’s a very good goalkeeper. He had a good game against us last year,” Kiefer said. “He is very good (at) coming out for balls and he is very good on his line making saves.”
FIU leads the all-time record against USF, the Panthers are10-9-3 against the Bulls (4-5-2) including a 3-2 victory last season. In addition to the strong presence in goal, FIU is averaging almost three goals per game and has been shutout this season only once.
“I think they are in the top 10 in country with all teams as far as the amount of goals per game that they get,” Kiefer said. “It is probably the most threatening attack we will see all year.”
At 1-3-1 in Conference USA, the Bulls claim the third-worst record in the conference and Kiefer is already looking for different ways to get his team into the NCAA Tournament.
“This out of conference game is a big game because (FIU) is in our region, and they are ranked ahead of us in the region,” Kiefer said. “We already have a win over UAB who is ranked ahead of us, we lost to Clemson by a goal, which isn’t bad, and we have a win over Furman. So this is an alternative way to get an NCAA Tournament bid.”
Conference matches have been unusually tough this year, and this is the worst start after five games for the Bulls since 2000 when they started 1-4. That season, USF finished 10-9-0 overall and did not attend the C-USA tournament. This season the Bulls have dropped some close matches to conference opponents, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Saint Louis on Saturday.
“(The team was) pretty deflated at the end of the match,” Kiefer said. “That’s what I want my guys to feel — sick to their stomachs when they lose.”
With a tough match sure to ensue, and with FIU being such an offensive threat, Kiefer said he is going to focus on defense but wants to keep his game plan as unaffected as possible.
“We are going to try and stick with how we have been trying to play, but (with) a major emphasis on being very good structurally on defense as a team.”