No. 21 USF to face No. 9 St. John’s

The No. 21 USF men’s soccer team plays two games in two days this weekend, the second of which will provide a look into the Bulls’ Big East future.

USF travels to Miami to play in the FIU Classic, where it will face Fairleigh Dickinson (8-4-1), and Saturday the team will take on No. 9 St. John’s. Both games are scheduled for 5 p.m. at University Park at FIU.

The four-team tournament, which also includes FIU, is the second of the season for the Bulls. In September, USF held the USF Holiday Inn Invitational and swept through two of the three opposing teams.

Friday, the Bulls face the top team in the Northeast Conference, Fairleigh Dickinson (6-1), a team USF coach George Kiefer said he is more focused on than St. John’s.

“We’re discussing Fairleigh Dickinson with this team,” Kiefer said. “We know we still have two games at home, so we’re looking at Fairleigh Dickinson and focusing on that game. That’s it.”

Goalkeeper Dane Brenner will look forward more to the second game because of the national ranking of St. John’s. In his mind, USF plays better against teams that are more in the spotlight.

“I think it’s big because I love playing ranked teams,” Brenner said. “I love playing teams that are supposed to be better than us.”

Freshman Rodrigo Hildalgo added, “It’s going to be huge because it is going to raise our confidence level so high,” Hildalgo said. “It doesn’t even matter about the rankings. Honestly, who cares about the rankings as long as we prove to a lot of people that St. John’s will be a real test for us right now?”

Next year, USF will join the Big East and form a new rivalry with St. John’s, a team that has been consistently good. Last year, St. John’s was runner up in the NCAA tournament, losing to Indiana 2-1 in the championship game. This year, the Red Storm is second in the Big East (6-1-3), behind Notre Dame (7-1-1).Kiefer remains optimistic.

“We didn’t go 7-0-2 by accident. We didn’t beat SMU by accident. We didn’t lead the conference defensively by accident, and we didn’t tie St. Louis, being down a goal with eight minutes left, by accident,” Kiefer said. “We’ve just had three games where a few guys didn’t show up and have a good game, and if you allow the negative to put pressure on you, then you’re going to lose the game.”