Men’s soccer survives late scare from FIU

South Florida goalkeeper Jeff Attinella — a sophomore making his first start of the season  — had some trouble late in the game Saturday, but USF held on for a 2-1 win against the Florida International Panthers.

With USF up 1-0 in the 81st minute, FIU sophomore midfielder Marcos Balladares found himself all alone near the box. As the USF defense retreated, Balladares’ shot looked like it would be no problem for Attinella — but not quite.

“The guy hit a ball to my left, I dove and the ball just went through my legs. I could have done a lot better, but that kind of stuff happens,” said Attinella.

The FIU goal was the first score since USF went ahead in the 17th minute, thanks to a goal by Bulls forward Jordan Seabrook, and had opportunities to put the game away in the second half, including a shot by junior midfielder Francisco Aristigueta that smashed the crossbar in the 65th minute.

“We kept the game within reach far too long for my liking,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “We should have put the match away earlier.”

Attinella made his debut after Kiefer decided to give starting goalkeeper Diego Restrepo a day off. Restrepo was coming off allowing five goals at Notre Dame in the previous match.

“I was a little nervous (before the match) since this was my first start since last year. Saving the first shot of the match gave me the confidence I needed,” said Attinella. 

Attinella’s mistake almost cost USF the win in regulation.

USF remained resilient, however. In what was the Bulls’ 18th free kick of the match, sophomore defender Andre Mittoo headed in the winning goal in the 84th minute.

“We had several free kicks during the match and I felt really close to getting to the ball in most of them, so I was very determined to get the goal,” Mittoo.said. “We may have been in a tied game, but after the FIU goal, it felt like we were losing.”

Attinella proved a reliable backup, saving a couple of tough shots and coming out aggressively on crosses. Restrepo was the first player to congratulate Attinella after the match, giving him a hug and commenting on his solid performance.

“There is no resentment between us — he is like a brother to me,” Restrepo said. “Whoever coach Kiefer decides that should play is fine by me — this is a healthy competition for the job and I will always be ready to play.”