After a slow first-half start, a resilient effort in the second helped the USF men’s soccer team come away with a 1-1 tie against American University at Corbett Stadium on Monday night.
The Bulls (0-0-2) were barraged with shots early and often by American (1-0-1), out shot 5-0 in the first 20 minutes. Coach George Kiefer said the sluggish start came from a layover from Saturday night’s double overtime draw with Michigan.
“Whatever we could do to get their legs back, they were a little flat (from the opener),” Kiefer said.
“You look at how we performed against Michigan…they were just exhausted. So we stuck with them (tonight)… and then they turned the corner and started fighting.”
After missing the Bulls’ season opener against the Wolverines, senior goaltender Spasoje Stefanovic was in midseason form on Monday night, making 9 saves on 24 shots.
Following a 2015 campaign in which Stefanovic played all of the Bulls’ minutes in 2015, the Serbian senior was excited to finally to make his 2016 debut to support his team in a game where he was truly needed.
“Even after that first game that I didn’t play, I was still with these guys,” Stefanovic said.
“I’m always for the team. Cheering from the bench or on the field…my job is to support these guys if I’m on the field or not. It doesn’t change…I play for these guys always.”
With the Bulls missing senior forward Nazeem Bartman after he received a red card in the opening game, USF struggled to maintain pressure in the first half. The first shot recorded for the Bulls wouldn’t come until the final minute of the first half.
However, the Bulls would respond with a flurry of opportunities and openings to open the second half. The pressure would culminate in the 62nd minute, when American goaltender Lucas Belanger was called for a foul in the box.
Senior defender Michael Bajza capitalized on the resulting penalty kick, burying the kick in the bottom right corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
“It’s the same in life when things are going your way. You start feeling bad for yourself and then you stop or realize that you have to move on. I really loved how they responded in the second half.”
The Bulls continue their non-conference schedule on Friday, when they take to the road to play Virginia Tech (2-0).