Versatility key for Bulls

Jordan Seabrook is one of just six returning starters for the Bulls in 2007. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Soccer is a fluid game built around team chemistry. Without it, a team is little more than 11 players kicking a ball around. That’s why the men’s soccer team’s biggest focus right now is coming together.

The team checks into a hotel every preseason. Once there, players are separated and paired with players they may not normally associate with. The purpose is to get everyone on the same page and working together.

“We take guys that come from different backgrounds and places and put them in a room together,” coach George Kiefer said. “It helps build chemistry between everyone on the team.”

With 14 new players and only six starters returning, good team chemistry will be a difficult and ongoing task for the Bulls.

“The first couple weeks will be a challenge,” defender and team captain Yohance Marshall said. “I don’t think it’ll be that hard in the end, though. We have a lot of talent here and if everybody works hard and stays focused we’ll come together.”

The Bulls won’t have any shortage of speed up front. Between

senior Simon Schoendorf, newcomer Zak Boggs, who led Conference USA in goals last year, and the Big East’s leading scorer in 2005, forward Jordan Seabrook, there is a good chance that goals will be plentiful for the Bulls.

“I don’t have any worries,” Seabrook said. “Everybody still has a common goal (of winning) and we’re all willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”

In the midfield, the Bulls return six players, including three starters from last year. With four new additions in the middle of the park, coach Kiefer has more position battles on his hands than he’s used to.

“I swear we have two guys at almost every position this year,” Kiefer said. “We’re going to have a deeper squad than people realize.”

The back line, which Kiefer

expects to be a tough and physical unit, will be anchored by senior captain Marshall. The road ahead for Marshall will not be easy, as he is the Bulls leader on the field.

“Sometimes you have to raise your voice a bit and let them know you’re there,” Marshall said of his duties as team captain. “Not too much, just (enough) to show that leadership presence.”

Joris Claessens is the only other returning starter for the Bulls on their back line. Among the new additions are two defenders who bring experience to the squad. Junior college transfer Jermaine Hardy won an NJCAA national title as captain of Jefferson Community College and has played for Jamaica’s under-15, -17 and -20 national teams. He comes in with another junior college transfer, Gonzalo Ramella. Adding size to the Bulls defense is the 6-foot-1-inch, 182-pound Peruvian, who played at Warner Southern last year where he made the all-regional team.

One position battle to keep an eye on will be at goalkeeper. Diego Restrepo is the only returning player at the postion. He’ll have to maintain his level of play to the highest extent, as he’ll have two freshmen, Jeff Attinella and Michael Canard, vying for their opportunity for playing time.

“I think it’s more fun for everyone this way,” Kiefer said of the position battles.

One thing is certain: It’s much easier for a coach when his depth chart is this deep. This may be one of the deeper USF teams in recent history, but many people are still saying it’s a rebuilding year for the Bulls.

“Not one of our guys was selected for preseason honors in the Big East,” Kiefer said. “I strongly disagree; I think we got some of the best players around.”

Even more disappointing is that the preseason Big East polls have the Bulls finishing third in the Red Division.

“I think we’re better than that,” Kiefer said. “We’re one of the best programs in the southeast and I think we’re being overlooked a little bit.”