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No. 17 USF wins close match, still unbeaten

The No. 17 USF men’s soccer team has luck on its side, but it certainly doesn’t show in the team’s 6-0-2 record. Sunday, USF beat the experienced FIU Golden Panthers 2-1 at University Park in Miami.

USF Coach George Kiefer knows that Sunday’s win wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“It was a very tough game,” Kiefer said. “I give (FIU) credit because after we got the second goal, (FIU) came out and put us under a lot of pressure, but our guys had been cracking and our goalkeeper came through.”

The Golden Panthers (3-4-0) opened the scoring early in the first half when FIU forward Fernando Plentz had a one-on-one play with USF goalkeeper Dane Brenner and chipped the ball over his head.

USF tied the game when defensemen Brandon Streicher was awarded a free kick and shot the ball 25 yards, only to have the ball go through FIU goalkeeper Shawn Crowe’s hands. This gave Streicher his first goal of the season and the sixth of his collegiate career.

The Bulls took the lead only ten minutes later, when freshmen Rodrigo Hidalgo scored his third goal of the season. Hidalgo took the free kick, beating Plantz to the right side on a hard shot.

“Rodrigo’s goal was a great restart goal,” Kiefer said. “He drove the ball — a very well driven ball — that just beat their goalkeeper.”

USF was out shot 15-11 by FIU, as both of its goals came off free kicks in the first half.

Hidalgo’s goal marks his second game-winner of the season as he continues to live up to his high national recruit ranking. He was ranked the No. 5 Top Recruit in Soccer America’s Preseason Poll.

“I think (USF) accomplished a lot tonight beating FIU,” Hidalgo said. “I’m just glad to be part of this win, doing my part, and scoring that goal.

“I still think everything happens for a reason. Our first goal could be lucky, but there is a reason it went in, just like there is a reason we won.”

Brenner, who allowed one goal and four saves, said he could relate with the anguish of the FIU goalkeeper, as earlier in the season Brenner had a save slip through his fingers. “Sometimes you’ve got to take them any way you can,” Brenner said. “We fought and fought and fought, and fought, and we got our second goal, but they were so good on the attack. I knew we had to hold them after that.”

But Kiefer would prefer not to rely on luck. Instead, he wants to put more faith in his players.

“(FIU) is a senior-loaded squad,” Kiefer said. “So I wouldn’t say luck, because the game is cruel, but we were really fortunate. (Dane) Made some great saves towards the end. This was just a tough game, and a great win.”