Bull headed overseas

Despite not living up to the hype this season, the men’s soccer program exceeded expectations in the offseason, adding a third player to the professional soccer ranks.

Senior defender Kareem Smith signed a professional contract Monday with KI Football Club in Denmark to play this spring.

Smith joins freshman Anthony Wallace and senior Hunter West, who were drafted in the MLS Superdraft earlier this month. Wallace was selected ninth overall by FC Dallas, and West was chosen by Toronto FC in the third round of the supplemental draft.

Smith, who is originally from Hyde Park, Ma., set the record for consecutive starts with 75 and is tied for most career matches at 75. Smith started every match during his four-year career with the Bulls.

“He is a part of my first senior class, and defensively in games, we knew that he would show up,” coach George Kiefer said. “He’s very good defensively, and it was a comforting feeling to know he was back there.”

After reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Bulls came into this season expecting another tournament run. USF was picked to finish first in the Big East’s Red Division and was ranked No. 18 in the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America preseason poll.

Smith was a big reason for the hype this season, and teaming up with Wallace, formed a dominant defensive tandem. Smith helped lead the Bulls to a No. 9 ranking early in the season, but the team had trouble since then.

“We struggled this season with the injuries, but we had a lot of young guys that got to play,” Kiefer said. “Many of the young players got to see the leadership that Kareem brought to the team and how hard he worked.”

USF finished the regular season with an 8-5-4 record and a 4-3-4 record in the Big East, which gave the Bulls the No. 4 seed in the Big East Tournament. The Bulls defeated Seton Hall in the first round, but were eliminated with a 1-0 loss to West Virginia in the quarterfinals.

The Bulls were not chosen for the 48-team NCAA Tournament.

Smith was named Second Team All-Big East in his senior year, anchoring a defense that had an 0.80 goals against average. The Bulls were ranked 25th in the nation in that category.

“He was a solid defender in the center-backfield for us,” Kiefer said. “We had so many different lineups due to injuries and he played with so many players, but his play never suffered.”