Men’s soccer midway through conference play check-in

Junior midfielder Henrique Gallina (4) has scored three goals this season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Saturday’s 3-0 win over Temple was not only the USF men’s soccer team’s first conference win of the year, it marked the halfway point of the conference slate.

It’s been a disappointing campaign for USF (3-6-1, 1-4 AAC), but with games against SMU, UCF, Temple and two against Memphis on the horizon, the Bulls have a chance to rebound.

In the spring season, USF’s roster included nine freshmen, but it rose to 18 this fall. The inexperience has proven costly and with just three wins and a draw to their name, the Bulls have much to improve down the home stretch.

Here’s a progress report of USF’s 2021 season thus far with some highlights, lowlights and a look ahead of what’s to come.

Best game

USF beats Steton 3-1 (Sept. 10)

While it may be tempting to select the hard-fought loss to UCF as the game of the year, given the late drama, the match of the season so far has to be one of the three victories. 

The 3-1 win over Stetson (5-4-2, 3-1 ASUN) on Sept. 10 was an imposing performance against a solid team, therefore it takes the title.

The Hatters have since turned their season around with three straight wins in their last three contests, but they entered the game against the Bulls 0-2-2 in search of their first victory.

USF brushed by Stetson with style. A complete display saw USF outshoot the Hatters 19-1 and lead in shots on goal 7-1.

Freshman forward Andres Freire scored a brace to help the Bulls secure their second win of the season. It was only his fifth collegiate game ever and the first multi-goal performance of his USF career.

Worst heartbreak

USF falls to UCF 3-2 (Sept. 29)

Losing to a rival is always a tough pill to swallow, but doing so in the fashion USF did against UCF on Sept. 29 in the War on I-4 made it even harder.

It was all Knights in the opening 45 minutes, as they led in shots 7-1 and held a 2-0 advantage at the break.

The Bulls went on to throw the kitchen sink at the Knights in the second half to try to make up for their previous defensive errors, including logging nine shots, but it was just not enough to translate to a victory.

Sophomore forward Victor Claudel brought the Bulls within one in the 85th minute, but time ran out before coach Bob Butehorn’s side could tally an equalizer in front of a crowd of over 1,400.

MVP so far

Henrique Gallina

Junior midfielder Henrique Gallina managed three goals and eight points in just eight appearances this season, making him the team leader in both categories despite not taking part in all 10 possible matches.

Two of his goals came in the season opener against Jacksonville on Aug. 26 and his other was in the win against Temple.

Gallina also has two assists, which is only bested by one teammate, freshman midfielder Shion Soga, who has three.

If he can take his game to another level, he could help his side have a better end of the season and potentially get back to .500.

Looking forward 

The Bulls’ next matchup is against Memphis (4-6-1, 3-2 AAC) at home in Corbett Stadium on Friday. It will be the first of two games against the Tigers, with the latter coming Oct. 31 in Tennessee.

USF will take on SMU on Oct. 22, UCF on Oct. 27 and finally Temple on Nov. 5. The matches against Memphis on Friday, SMU and Temple will be at home.

There are some winnable games left, but the Bulls will really need to put it together to get some victories over the final five games.

Given the age of the squad, some of the hardships are understandable, but the side needs to improve to end this campaign and in future seasons.

Grade: C-