After falling to Connecticut in the first Big East Conference match of the season, the men’s soccer team quickly recovered to defeat Providence.
For the Bulls, the 3-1 victory was crucial, as it was their first conference triumph of the season.
“I was very concerned about the Providence game because of how much energy we
expended against Connecticut,” coach George Kiefer said. “I was happy with the way we gutted it out. It’s not easy to play conference games on Friday and Sunday.”
It took USF two minutes to get its first score against the Friars. A line drive shot by sophomore midfielder Francisco Aristeguieta gave the Bulls a 1-0 lead.
The Bulls were without midfielder Kevon Neaves because of a strained hamstring he sustained during the Connecticut game. Neaves has been a key component to USF’s success so far this year, but sophomore midfielder Marc Doherty proved to be an adequate replacement.
“Although Marc was a key to the game, this was his kind of a game,” Kiefer said, “because it was a tough physical game, and he’s a scrapper and a good ball winner.”
Providence was able to keep things interesting with a score early in the second half, but the Bulls were able to hang on and ultimately finish the Friars off with a late goal from Jordan Seabrook.
“It says a lot about the group to rebound from a tough loss,” Kiefer said. “Last year we wound up wondering why we didn’t close out Providence and some other games. For the team to rebound this well says a lot.”
Friday’s match against the Huskies drew a record 2,431 people to the USF soccer stadium, and it proved worthy of the hype despite a two hour and thirty minute weather delay.
The Huskies were able to withstand the USF attack and hand the Bulls their first loss of the season with the final score of
2-1. The final was suprising since the Bulls dominated Connecticut for much of the game.
“We played all over them,” team captain Yohance Marshall said. “Good teams punish you if you don’t finish your chances, and that’s what they did.”
USF had no shortage of chances against the Huskies. The Bulls outshot Connecticut 14-8 on the night and were able to control the ball the way they planned.
Despite their best efforts, the match went into halftime tied 0-0.
“A match like this is
frustrating, but Connecticut is a good team and they deserve their ranking,” Seabrook said. “When you’re playing a good team, they make it difficult to put away your chances, but we know if we keep playing like this the results will be there.”
Five minutes into the second half, the deadlock was broken when the Bulls drew first blood. Bernardo Anor received the ball deep in the Huskies’ half of the field where he proceeded to put in a cross that sneaked through the hands of Connecticut goalkeeper Josh Ford. The ball bounced once before Seabrook stabbed it past a crowd of defenders to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead.
“We’d been pressing for a long time,” Seabrook said. “We needed a goal and we deserved it. It felt good to give us the lead.”
Less than 10 minutes later, it nearly became a two-goal lead after USF was successful in creating pressure around the Huskies goal but saw their attempts fail when a shot from Anor deflected off the post and was cleared by the Huskies.
Connecticut found an equalizer in the 64th minute when a cross by midfielder Mike Pezza found the head of O’Brien White. It was one of few openings in the Bulls’ defense all night.
The game winner came in the 71st minute when Connecticut’s Ryan Cordeiro made a run and successfully assisted Chukwudi Chijindu to put the Huskies up 2-1.
USF had chances in the closing minutes but was unable to connect on anything to equalize.
“We started the second half good but then we hit a little bit of a lull,” Kiefer said. “I thought we got a little unwound after the second goal, but in the end, they (the Huskies) said it themselves, they got away with one tonight. I’m proud of the effort we had, but hats off to them, they’re a good team.”