The men’s soccer team opens play in the Big East Tournament tonight, hosting Seton Hall. The Bulls (8-5-4, 4-3-4) are facing the Pirates (9-7-1, 7-4-0) for the first time this season.
“Seton Hall is a good, good team,” coach George Kiefer said. “I think (we) have to not open ourselves up and be sound defensively.”
Defense has been USF’s forte this year. In 17 games, the Bulls have allowed just 14 goals.
The defense, however, will be tested. The Pirates have scored 28 goals this year – third best in the Big East. USF, which has scored just 20 goals, has a record of 1-2-3 against teams that have scored more goals in the season.
“We’ve been working hard, trying to study how they play – what their strengths and weaknesses are,” forward Jordan Seabrook said. “We’ve put together a game plan that should be pretty effective.”
Kiefer believes the Bulls will fare well against the Pirates if the team establishes heightened aggression. In their last game, the Bulls fell behind early and were only able to get one shot in the first half in a 1-0 loss to St. John’s. The remaining five shots for USF occurred in the second half.
“I do always want our guys to feel free to get forward into the attack,” Kiefer said. “I actually reward them for doing that.”
Seabrook, who had seven shots on goal and three goals in the Big East Tournament last year, said the team will be ready to take advantage of whatever chances Seton Hall brings.
“The way (the Pirates) play, we think that they will open up at different times,” Seabrook said. “The flank will be open at certain times with how they defend, and I think once we work it there, the center will also be open. We’re just trying to focus more on playing well on our game and creating chances wherever they may be.”
Seabrook stresses that conference tournament jitters are not a factor.
“I don’t think there’s any jitters there from anybody,” Seabrook said. “We don’t want to come out nervous or scared. We just want to come out playing as hard and focused as possible. Our focus on the team now is as good as it’s ever been.”
The Bulls have only faced the Pirates once all-time. The 2005 meeting resulted in a 3-2 overtime victory for USF against then-No. 16 Seton Hall.