USF got a “big” performance from junior goalkeeper Jeff Attinella to grab a big conference win this weekend.
Attinella made seven saves, including a key one on a Cincinnati penalty kick late in the match, and the Bulls (7-1-1, 3-1-1) got second-half goals from Ashani Fairclough and Bernardo Anor to defeat the Bearcats (7-4-0, 2-3-0) 2-0 on Saturday at the USF Soccer Stadium.
“Overall I thought we played very well tonight and Jeff Attinella was huge for us,” said USF coach George Kiefer. “(Cincinnati) played a disruptive game, and I think they were coached to play that way. I think we’ll see a lot of similar styles from other Big East teams, so it was good to get some practice against it.”
After the two teams combined for a total of eight shots on goal in a scoreless first half, USF got a break early in the second half.
In the 51st minute, Fairclough scored his first career goal when he knocked in a bending pass from Javed Mohammed’s free kick to give USF a 1-0 lead.
The Bulls continued to play strong defense and looked to be on their way to another quality win until a handball inside the goalie box gave the Bearcats a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.
That’s when Attinella stepped up.
Senior midfielder Judson McKinney took the penalty shot for Cincinnati and watched as his drive to the lower left-hand corner was stopped by Attinella’s outstretched arms.
“I was able to read where (McKinney) was going with the ball and luckily dove in the same direction as his shot,” Attinella said. “Then for us to score a goal right after that was huge.”
Just 49 seconds after Attinella’s save preserved the lead, Anor secured the match for the Bulls with his fourth goal of the season, a header off a perfectly placed cross from Jorge Mora. Mohammed was also credited with an assist on the play, giving him two for the match and a team-high four on the season.
“The offense was very dangerous tonight,” Kiefer said. “We created five good chances and came away with two goals. I’m happy with the direction we are going in.”
Attinella has four shutouts this year, as USF extends its home unbeaten streak to 23 games (20-0-3) dating back to Sept. 23, 2007.
“It has been a good season for us so far but we are nowhere near satisfied,” he said. “We just have to continue to work hard and get better every day.”