USF men’s soccer beats Tampa 2-1, reclaims Rowdies Cup

USF’s players hold the Rowdies Cup high after their comeback win over Tampa in Saturday’s exhibition. ORACLE PHOTO/JEFF ODOM

The USF men’s soccer team took back the Rowdies Cup for the first time in two years  Saturday night with a 2-1 exhibition victory over University of Tampa at Corbett Stadium.

“This game’s important to the town, for sure, and I know Tampa is a very good side,” USF coach George Kiefer said. “They have a lot of talent going forward.”

Tampa opened the scoring in the second minute after miscommunication between the USF center backs led to Spartans midfielder Keith Francisco getting a one-on-one situation with USF’s senior goalkeeper Spasoje Stefanovic. Francisco put an uncontested shot through the AAC’s preseason goalkeeper of the year to give the Spartans an early 1-0 advantage.

It didn’t take long for the host Bulls to nab the equalizer.

Thirty-six seconds later, junior Lindo Mfeka dribbled down the right side of the Spartans’ box and sent a cross to a wide-open junior Nazeem Bartman, who easily slotted in the equalizer.

Sophomore defender Gabriel Pfeffer scored the winner for the Bulls in the 36th minute after Mfeka sent in a free kick from about 35 yards out to the left side of the box. 

Senior Brandon Riley was the first to reach the ball and passed it across the box to Pfeffer, who easily tapped it into the net.

Both sides had their fair share of chances in the second half. A penalty kick from Mfeka was stopped by Spartans goalkeeper Christian Knight and two shots by Francisco were both denied by the goal posts. 

“I saw some attacking movement and the way we got forward was really good,” Kiefer said. “Now it’s showing up at the back of the team, who steps up and who drops back for one-on-one defending.”

Stefanovic finished the night needing to make only one more save after giving up the early goal.

“The options and depth of the roster are very good,” Kiefer said. “So, we just need to grind out this week and look forward to Missouri State (in Friday’s regular-season opener).”