Hidalgo won’t return

Junior Rodrigo Hidalgo will forego his senior season to pursue a professional soccer career.

The forward has signed with an agent, ending his NCAA eligibility. Hidalgo has left to train in Norway with senior defender Kareem Smith.

“Some things are going well and some not so great,” Hidalgo told soccer Web site yanks-abroad.com. “It’s tough going from the college environment to a professional one.”

Hidalgo has been among the top scorers for USF each of his three seasons with the team.

USF coach George Kiefer said Hidalgo had mentioned his desire to become a professional player previously and the move didn’t come as a shock.

“It’s something we’ve spoken about before, so I wasn’t too surprised,” Kiefer said. “This decision wasn’t made out of the blue, so I am disappointed he’s not coming back, but I know he’ll be successful in whatever he does.”

Kiefer said once Hidalgo’s mother agreed with the decision to turn pro, his playing days as a Bull were numbered.

“He and his mom agree this is the best move for him,” Kiefer said. “But I wish he would finish up his degree first.”

Hidalgo’s impact was felt by the team immediately. As a freshman, he was named Conference USA Co-Freshman of the Year along with teammate Simon Schoendorf, after scoring six goals, including three game-winners, and recording six assists.

“Rodrigo is one of our key players and has definitely done a lot for the team,” Schoendorf said. “He was always dangerous when he had the ball because he seems to always find the open man.”

In the Bulls’ first year in the Big East, Hidalgo registered seven goals and 15 assists for a total of 29 points. For his efforts Hidalgo was named to the NSCAA All-South Region and All-Big East teams.

Coming into this season the Bulls were expected to be among the nation’s best soccer teams. But USF struggled early in the year, and failed to live up to expectations after finishing the year 9-6-4 and falling to West Virginia in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

Hidalgo still managed to have a productive year, tying for the team lead in goals (6), second in total points (14) and recording two assists.

Kiefer said he has drawn interest from European club teams, and even some Major League Soccer teams.

“He’s played such an important role for our team,” Schonedorf said. “Anyone will be lucky to have someone like him on their team.”