The USF men’s soccer team split its matches during the Duke/adidas Invitational over the weekend. After handing North Carolina State its second loss of the season, the Bulls fell to No. 9 Duke on Sunday.
Against N.C. State, the Bulls scored two second-period goals for the victory. Midfielder Hunter West scored his second game-winning goal of the season, and forward Jordan Seabrook sealed the win after scoring his first goal of the season during the 82nd minute.
For the first time all season, the Bulls allowed an opponent to score first in the game against Duke. Forward Mike Grella scored his fourth goal of the season to help the Blue Devils improve to 4-0 this season.
Earlier in the year, the Bulls were ranked as high as No. 9. And while the team doesn’t feel the ranking has put on any additional pressure, the two Bulls’ losses have USF reeling in the rankings.
“This is the first time our team has been highly ranked this early,” forward Simon Schoendorf said. “I’m not sure if we dealt with it the right way. We still have time to pick it up. We’ll get better as the season continues.”
During both of their losses this season, the Bulls have played a man down for a substantial amount of time. Yohance Marshall was ejected during the 32nd minute against Fordham on Aug. 27, and Kevon Neaves was forced off the field during the 59th minute Sunday.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to play in both losses with one less guy,” coach George Kiefer said. “But I was happy with how the group responded afterward. We actually picked our game up after (Neaves) was thrown out.”
Defenseman Kareem Smith was a major reason why Duke only managed a single goal, even with a man advantage for nearly 30 minutes.
“Kareem basically shut down the whole area,” Kiefer said.
“Kareem has been playing tremendously for us. He does so many things on the field well.”
Struggles on offense led to the Bulls’ second loss this season. Duke had a shot advantage of 18-3, and USF didn’t register a shot during the second half. The Blue Devils were the first opponents this season to hold USF scoreless.
“(The tournament) was a good experience for us. We really have a demanding schedule this season,” Kiefer said. “We’re going through some adversity, and we have to get stronger as a team.
This was a great experience for us.”
A bright spot for the Bulls this season has been Smith’s play. After his play during the tournament, he was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week. Smith has made 61 consecutive starts for USF.
“Kareem plays so consistently, he could easily win the award every week,” Schoendorf said. “At practice, it’s a nightmare having to face him. It’s nice knowing that he’s back there. He gives our team so much security.”