Note: Going Total Soccer Snob in delivery here. Simply because it's fun.
There are those that say football isn't nearly as exciting as it should be because of teams that go against the spirit ofthe sport when they choose to "park the bus" in front of their crease. Sides that create a fortress with forethought and dig a proverbial moat outside their penalty area with no consideration of the Maginot Line acting as a midfield stripe dozens of yards ahead. These accusers that decry the lack of beauty in modern football could use last nights contest at Corbett Stadium as Exhibit A in a war crimes trial against The Beautiful Game.
It was matchup of sides content to play negative football with frequency, particularly as the scoreboard clock wore on towards its inevitable string of zeros surrounded by clones in both scoring columns, a furious split pair of chances late at the end of regulation not withstanding. It was often boring with both teams not afraid to counterattack, but hardly looking to push the offensive envelope with incisive passing or daring runs forward either. And the misty weather and slick grass made things even more difficult, though both sides did manage to squander several legitimate scoring opportunities. Only three of the eight saves made seemed to truly test either keeper, with two nobly repelled by Eagle keeper Nathan Ingham. And the lack of probing attacks at Dallas Jaye, who was top notch in front of his supporters, shouldn't chasten his bedrock performance.
Don't mistake a lack of creative flair for a lack of spirit, as all those in both blue and white strips played with a passion and grit that made the drama tangible. The six cautions (three per team) issued by headmaster Jonathan Weiner could have easily been doubled if not for his Father Flanagan approach to those he monitored. And his failure to use the official's sharpest weapon painted in red could be judged kindly as attempting to stay out of the fray, or harshly as grossly incompetent to the bloodlust surrounding him.
But even the purist that is diametrically opposed to the penalty kick shootout can't help but be enthralled by their drama. Though having entire seasons and careers defined by a Lottery at 12 Yards is almost as cruel to the participants as replays of such matches would be to the spectators. Though at some point the experience of the home team, who have finished their last four NCAA matches via this mental gauntlet, must have calloused their nerves as they step inside the penalty area alone.
And in the fifth period there wasn't even a save, as the Eagles freshman defender Aaron Guillen, who had been a reincarnated and American educated Gazza via his relationship with the fans all day, completely missed the target for the only failure of the shootout. You can see in the video the delight with which The Kop took in his misfortune.
USF vs FGCU Soccer PK Shootout (via usfcollin)
Lost in all the drama at the end was also a near donnybrook with a few USF fans and Xavier Silva of FGCU after the outcome was decided. It wasn't Cantona channeling Daniel LaRussa at Selhurst Park, but worthy of some cheers and guffaws from both sides nonetheless.
The Bulls advance to take on the higher seeded Golden Hurricane of Tulsa on Sunday at 6pm. The fact they host the match at the oft-raucous Corbett shows the NCAA is even more brazen than Sepp Blatter in their quest for financial acumen amongst championship participants.