The USF men’s soccer team is picking up a bad habit.
The Bulls (12-5, 9-2 Big East) came back to beat West Virginia (12-7-2, 6-5-1 Big East) in a Big East quarterfinal game 4-1 after being down 1-0 for most of the game. It was the fourth time in the last five matches that the Bulls have won a game after trailing their opponent at one time in the match.
“You don’t want to be known as a comeback team in this game,” coach George Kiefer said. “But at the same time, we don’t crack at all when a team gets a goal on us.”
West Virginia took the lead when midfielder Andy Wright hit a header off a free kick from Dan Stratford in the 20th minute. The Mountaineers seemed to have the game in control and took their one-goal lead into halftime.
“I thought West Virginia did a very good job in the first half,” Kiefer said. “They moved the ball very well, so we were worried about them.”
The Mountaineers had seven shots, including three on goal, while USF struggled with their scoring opportunities. Knowing the season was at stake, Kiefer asked his players to step up at halftime.
“In the second half, I just asked the guys to compete a little more, work a little harder and go after them,” Kiefer said. “We were playing very tentative in the first half.”
The Bulls responded to their coach and midway through the second half, sophomore Rodrigo Hidalgo took a Jordan Seabrook pass and beat Mountaineer goalkeeper Nick Noble for the Bulls’ first goal of the game.
That was all the Bulls needed to get their offense going.
The Bulls added goals from Yohance Marshall, Simon Schoendorf and another from Hidalgo in the next eight minutes, putting USF up 4-1.
“We exploded,” Bulls goalkeeper Dave Brenner said. “Rigo’s first goal just ignited us. We were all over them. I don’t know if they even had a shot on me in the second half – at least until the end.”
The Bulls controlled the ball for much of the second half, allowing the Mountaineers only one shot on goal and leaving Brenner without much to do.
“I got a little bored,” Brenner said. “In the first half, I had more action, but in the second half, we put so much pressure on them. We did our job, and it really limited their offense.”
For West Virginia coach Mike Seabolt, the change in momentum was more than noticeable.
“We played good in the first half,” Seabolt said. “I don’t think we gave effort in the second half.
They raised their intensity, but we didn’t.”
The Bulls will now face Providence on Friday in the semifinal game of the Big East championship in Storrs, Conn., and Kiefer is hoping the Bulls can hold the lead for the entire match.
“We never get panicked when a team gets a goal on us,” Kiefer said. “We’re comfortable being down and getting the game back – the only ones who aren’t comfortable are the coaches.”