When the USF men’s soccer team takes to the field Saturday against Temple (10-3-4, 3-1-4) in Pennsylvania, it will no longer have the opportunity to earn any more draws through double overtime.
That’s because the American Athletic Conference (AAC) playoffs have begun, and the team’s focus on finishing is now more meaningful than ever.
“We’ve been working a lot on finishing,” freshman midfielder Marcus Epps said. “We’ve been getting better and more clinical around the goal.”
Before last week’s double overtime 0-0 draw against the Louisville Cardinals, the Bulls (6-3-8, 2-2-4) were able to put two straight games away against Southern Methodist University and Detroit Mercy.
The Bulls’ last appearance in Philadelphia was Oct. 12, where they tied the Owls, 1-1, after two overtimes. With the playoffs beginning this weekend, the team has reflected back on the benefits of playing extra time throughout the season.
“Playing the overtime games has given us mental toughness,” senior goalkeeper Brentton Muhammad said. “We are trying to keep focus on doing the right things and getting in the right areas.”
Muhammad finished the season posting six shutout performances and has allowed an average of .69 goals a game.
On the offensive end, the team is keeping focus on creating opportunities for goals. In order for the Bulls to score though, they will have to get past a Temple defense that allowed the second lowest number of goals in the AAC.
That doesn’t concern Epps, who said scoring shouldn’t be an issue.
“I’m confident that we are going to get one in against them,” Epps said.
The team’s ball movement has been generating shots and goals for the Bulls, averaging a conference-best of 14.52 shots a game and second-best of 1.29 goals average.
While the team has been practicing to finish the game within regulation, they are also preparing in the event that the score remains even and comes down to penalty kicks — something Epps and the team have been preparing for.
“Just in case a tie comes this time around, we’ll be ready for it,” he said.
The Bulls will face the Owls on Saturday at 1 p.m. If they win the quarterfinal game, they will have the chance to play SMU or UConn in the semifinals.