A team showed up Saturday at the USF Soccer Stadium, but anyone at the game would be hard pressed to say whether it was really the No. 11 USF men’s soccer team. Sure, this team was wearing white jerseys with USF on them, but it didn’t play like a nationally ranked team.
However, two things happened to the Bulls for the first time on Saturday. First, USF lost its third consecutive conference game 1-0 at the hands of Marquette. Losing three consecutive conference games has never happened in the men’s soccer program’s nine years in Conference USA.
And secondly, the Bulls lost three straight games for the first time under head coach George Kiefer.
The USF offense seemed lethargic as they were out shot 18-9 by the Golden Eagles. Kiefer wasn’t angry with his team, just confused about which team was really at the game.
“We got shut out tonight, and (Marquette) has a good attacking team,” Kiefer said. “I don’t know if (USF) carried those two losses into this game and played conservatively, but it didn’t look like the South Florida men’s team out there tonight, that’s for sure.” Simon Schoendorf was also baffled by what has happened to what used to be such a potent offense.
“I don’t know, to be honest. I can’t really tell what’s wrong with us,” Schoendorf said. “I’m speechless at the moment.”
The lone goal of the game came late in the second half when Marquette defender Mike Carlson threw the ball into his forward, Pat Knoelke, who crossed the ball into USF’s goal box. Marquette forward Matt Blouin was camped out near Bulls goalkeeper Dane Brenner and proceeded to head the ball into the near left corner with under 13 minutes left in the game.
Despite the lack of shots by the Bulls, the best opportunity for USF to score came when the team was awarded a penalty kick with 1:13 left in the game.
Freshman Christian Jimenez set up to take the kick. He put the ball in the lower right-hand corner and Marquette goalkeeper Andy Kroll made a diving save to secure the win.
After the game, Jimenez was upset with himself, as he stood far from his teammates.
“There’s one minute left and I get the chance to tie the game,” Jimenez said. “It was my fault. The team depended on me to get the tying goal, and I failed.”
Freshman Rodrigo Hidalgo, who had an unusually quiet game, doesn’t blame his best friend for the loss. He knows everyone on the team will shoulder some blame and that mistakes were made by all players.
“I told (Jimenez) not to worry about it. I made a mistake myself,” Hidalgo said. “It was my man (Blouin) that scored the goal. (Jimenez) has scored a lot of PKs, but this is the first one he’s missed. He shouldn’t be down about that. It happens to the best of us.”
Schoendorf can relate with what Jimenez went through at the end of the game. In the 1-0 loss against Cincinnati last Saturday Schoendorf had a chance to tie the game with a penalty kick of his own, but shot the ball wide of the goal.
“I must say I was in the same situation two games ago against Cincinnati,” Schoendorf said. “I just told him I experienced the same thing a week ago. There’s nothing you can say to a person except ‘Keep your head up and things will get better as the days pass.'”
Marquette, the last-place team in C-USA, got its first conference win on Saturday by beating the Bulls, but USF won’t lose any ground at the conference standings as it sits in sixth place. The C-USA tournament, which begins Nov. 11, only accepts the top six teams in the conference.
Kiefer didn’t recognize the team that showed up against the Golden Eagles, but with a week off until the FIU Classic in Miami, which includes a game against No. 10 St. John’s, he hopes the team that started the season off so well will decide to turn up in the next few days.
“Christian (Jimenez) needs a little time right now. You can see how upset he is from missing the PK,” Kiefer said. “But he doesn’t need to bear the weight of this, because we didn’t deserve the game. There’s just a bunch of guys who didn’t show up tonight. I would swear it wasn’t our men’s team out there. I don’t know who it was.”