Soccer team hits the road

If the USF men’s soccer team isn’t feeling desperate yet, they will soon.

“You need to be 4-4-1 in order to have a shot (at the conference tournament),” USF coach George Kiefer said.

Currently, the Bulls sit at 1-3-1.

With four conference games remaining, three of which are on the road, USF must play tough no matter the venue if it wants a chance to make the C-USA tournament.

“Going on the road is always tough,” Kiefer said. “But I am trying to get our guys to play our game.”

The top six finishers advance to the C-USA Tournament, where the winner claims an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville paces the 10-team league at 5-2-1. The Bulls face the Cardinals Sunday after a Friday match against cellar dweller East Carolina.

The Pirates have struggled all season, combining for a 3-7-2 record without a win in the conference. Despite the fact that the Pirates have not won in more than a month, Kiefer is taking this match as seriously as any other.

“In my mind, (not winning in over a month) makes them more dangerous,” Kiefer said. “I am not looking at their record. I am looking at the type of team they are, and they are good.”

According to Kiefer, the Pirates have just been unlucky — dropping close matches against tough teams. Six of ECU’s past seven matches have been lost by a single goal.

“They look solid,” Kiefer said. “The few tapes I have seen they were unlucky.”

After Sunday’s match in North Carolina, USF will travel to Louisville. The Cardinals have only been bested twice this season by conference opponents and sport the second best record among C-USA teams, 10-5-2, just behind Saint Louis’ 9-2-2.

The Cardinals are undefeated in five consecutive matches and are looking to make USF their sixth victim. Although the Bulls are 1-3 on the road this season, all three losses have been against ranked teams, including No. 5 Saint Louis, No. 11 Michigan and Clemson.

USF’s only road victory was against another ranked opponent, Furman, which was ranked in the top 20 at the time. All of the Bulls’ away matches, except for Michigan, were decided by one goal, including a 2-1 overtime loss to Saint Louis.

Looking to make things happen on the road is USF sophomore Hunter West. After coming out of the gate hot, West has not scored a goal since Sept. 12 against Charlotte.

After a somewhat speedy recovery following a pelvic injury, West began the season scoring more than half of USF’s goals in its first five matches.

The sophomore standout’s playing time has been limited recently, playing only 44 minutes in the Bulls’ last match against FIU.

“Hunter is still battling an injury,” Kiefer said. “And I felt against FIU that the guys (on the field) had a good rhythm going, and I didn’t want to interrupt that rhythm.”