Captain back in the saddle

If the men’s soccer team could choose one person from the roster as its poster boy, it certainly would have to be Keeron Benito. At least that is what USF coach George Kiefer thinks.

“Keeron fits into our style of play,” Kiefer said. “He’s great at keeping the game quick and keeping the team playing. Keeron is like our spirit. He keeps the group loose.

“Against some of the tougher opponents, I go down to the locker room, more nervous than the team, and the team is very loose and laughing and dancing and having a good time. I like it that way.”

Kiefer is glad that his sophomore captain is back in the starting lineup, but not as excited as Benito himself.

“I’m really happy,” Benito said. “I think that I can help the team in a lot of ways.”

Benito was sidelined for the first five games with a foot injury and was forced to watch his team go on to the best start it’s had since 2001. For Benito, his view from the bench wasn’t easy to take in, as his road back to the playing field was a very slow trip.

“Really tough,” Benito said. “Unbelievably. I was thinking I’m not worth anything again, and the team probably doesn’t need me. I was even thinking about a lot of other things, but I was very disappointed and very happy for the team, but very disappointed in myself.”

Getting back to the starting lineup has been on Benito’s mind all season.

“Just thinking about getting back into the starting lineup,” Benito said, “and I would just work double to do that.”

Benito will be starting in only his second game of the season, as the Bulls take on C-USA foe Memphis (8-2-0, 4-0 C-USA) on Saturday at USF Soccer Stadium at 7 p.m.

The No. 24 Tigers will be coming into town with No. 10 USF (6-0-2, 2-0-1 C-USA) leading the conference series all time 11-1-2, including a 2-1 win last season in Memphis. The Bulls are also riding a three-game winning streak against their C-USA rival. Kiefer knows the game with Memphis is considered a big match-up, but has really been focused on his own team in practice.

“I’ve been much more about us this week than about Memphis,” Kiefer said. “(Memphis) has two very good front guys. They like to get behind you on transition. They’re good on corner kicks and long throws. Very disciplined team.

“But we’ve been working on fixing our game and not changing anything for Memphis. We’re preparing for Memphis, but we’re not changing anything.”