Playing on a hot Friday afternoon to a crowd of 592 fans at Corbett Stadium, USF men’s soccer began conference play with a 2-1 loss to No. 6 SMU.
In their last match up on Nov. 10, 2022, the Bulls (2-5) faced the Mustangs (7-1) in the AAC tournament semifinals, where South Florida won 1-0 with a last-minute goal.
This game, however, proved to be a little more difficult for USF.
Despite only losing by one goal, South Florida had two of its goals revoked by being offsides in the second half.
Senior midfielder Ajmeer Spengler missed a penalty kick in the 19th minute, which could’ve been an early equalizer for the team.
The little details in this match, such as being offsides, not completing their plays in the 18-yard box and leaving open space for the Mustangs to score, cost the Bulls a win.
Spengler said the first goal from the opponents was a lack of vision coming from USF’s defense.
“We left ourselves a little bit exposed, and we didn’t have the back of the house sealed up properly. We got caught on the break and [Mustangs graduate student forward Jelldrik Dallmann] had a good finish,” Spengler said.
During the fast paced game, USF didn’t trail too far from SMU regarding shots and corner kicks. The Mustangs ended the match with 11 shot attempts and five corner kicks while the Bulls had nine shot attempts and four corner kicks.
Junior forward Oscar Resano also had two close header attempts at the 35th and 43rd minute of the first half after subbing in for lead-goalscorer of the Bulls graduate striker Jalen Anderson.
South Florida was determined to net a goal in the final 20 minutes of the match as they dominated with 57% ball possession.
Coach Bob Butehorn said his team played with high energy, but playing with composure is equally important when they were trying to regain the lead.
“I don’t want to be animated because [we] are chasing the game. I’d rather be animated when we already have the game under control over the other team,” Butehorn said.
“I think the urgency was there [tonight] because they know they have the ability to do something pretty special right now.”
Although its season started in a slump, South Florida has started to show improvement. Its offense has created more attacking opportunities and the team has been more competitive.
In the past four games combined, USF has scored six goals after going scoreless in its first three regular season games.
However, to claim a third win against FIU next Friday, the Bulls will have to play a cleaner offensive game.
Spengler said they will take this loss and use it as fuel for their next matchup on Friday.
“We’ll go into this weekend with a big chip on our shoulder.” Spengler said.
“I think we’re gonna do great things. We just [have] to continue to push ourselves in training, continue to fight and those goals will start coming in.”
South Florida will be hitting the road next Friday to play its second conference game of the season against FIU. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.