Less than a week removed from being shutout in two games at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer isn’t worried about his team moving forward.
The No. 24 Bulls (2-2) lost both of their matches against No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 18 Indiana last weekend 2-0 after knocking off No. 3 Georgetown by the same score Aug. 31. But rather than worry, Kiefer said he sees the losses as a learning experience for his squad.
“I think it was a good weekend,” Kiefer said. “You go on the road and play two of the better teams in the country and identify problems, and if you have a group that takes it the right way, not only can you identify problems in your own group (but) you can see what some of the better teams are doing.”
After heading into the second half against the Fighting Irish. USF was down 1-0, but still had an opportunity to pull off the upset. But after a penalty for a handball in the box led to a goal off a penalty kick, USF was unable to come back.
“I walked away feeling like in large portions of those games, we were able to carry the game,” Kiefer said. “We just gave away goals that I think need to be prevented.”
Part of the reason for USF’s three consecutive games against ranked opponents so early in the season, was for the team to play top competition and get something out of the experience, which Kiefer feels they have.
“I told the team we could’ve scheduled two cupcakes at home,” Kiefer said. “I think if you look at our schedule from top to bottom, every one of them has a different challenge, which is what we want.”
With a bit of roster turnover from last year’s team — only five starters return from 2014 — growing pains are inevitable. That’s why Kiefer isn’t ready to make any major changes.
“I don’t think you change too much,” he said. “I think it’s more a matter of the guys just getting comfortable with each other. It’s a fairly new group when you look at all the pieces and I think it’s just a matter of time.”
The team has gained experience quickly by being thrown into the fire from the start. At Notre Dame, USF played in front of a packed crowd of 1,731 before playing the Hoosiers the next day.
Kiefer said the stress of those matchups will pay off down the stretch.
“You go play a Notre Dame in their home opener in front of a good crowd, you’re going to be under stress for long periods,” Kiefer said. “It’s how you manage that stress, how you deal with it. It’s not a matter of changing things — it’s a matter of getting comfortable in the stress.”