When junior goalkeeper Spasoje Stefanovic takes the field for the USF men’s soccer team tonight against Central Florida, he might have to deal with something more than shots flying at him: opposing fans trying to steal his focus.
“I’ve never experienced the UCF fans behind my goal,” Stefanovic said. “But they are going to come and they will try to make a mess and mess me up, but the rivalry is pretty big and I hope it goes well for us.”
Stefanovic, a native of Serbia, made three saves in the Bulls’ 1-0 win over the Knights last season and will look to keep that momentum going.
The Knights (5-7-1, 1-3-1) are stuck in the cellar of the American Athletic Conference, but the Bulls are sticking to the mentality that anything can happen in a rivalry game.
“We’re not going to overlook them,” Stefanovic said. “We approach them like every other game, like Denver or Cincinnati. We approach them with a little more respect, of course, but these are our biggest rivals and we respect that.”
Stafanovic said the plan is to attack the Knights and put pressure on their defense. With junior forward Nazeem Bartman leading the offensive attack, they hope that pressure will be persistent.
Bartman has netted five goals for the Bulls (9-3-1, 4-0-1), including four game-winners this season. The junior transfer said he doesn’t know exactly what to expect, but he’s not fretting the opportunity to shutdown a rival.
“I’m not worried about anything,” Bartman said. “Our team has been practicing well and our mentality and the attitude has been great. We’re just going to go out there and just do the job.”
As for the Bulls’ defensive effort, they currently rank first in the conference, allowing only eight goals.
Only two of their eight goals given up were inside the confines of Corbett Stadium — where USF hasn’t lost since their final game of last season. The Bulls think that will play a key role in this game.
“We’re going to attack them,” Stefanovic said. “We’re playing at home at Corbett, where we haven’t lost a game.
“I love the rivalry and I love our fans, they make every game special for us.”