The USF men’s soccer team lost their second game in a row on penalties, this time to FGCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
The Bulls got shelled all night long, allowing 14 total shots on the night and firing off only seven themselves. The ref called 38 total fouls and three yellow cards on USF, and could have doubled that in OT alone if he chose.
FGCU got on the board first in the 27th minute, but the Bulls responded before the half. Luis Garza made a leaping play along the touch line to keep the ball in play (see above photo). His effort found Bradley Farias (exactly where he is above), who played it off his chest and laid it off to Lindo Mfeka. Lindo fired a rocket to the near post for the goal on the 43rd minute mark.
The Bulls struck again in the 54th minute, Bradley Farias made a run into the box, cut, and rolled the ball to Marcus Epps at the penalty spot. Epps buried the shot with ease.
Unfortunately, another defensive breakdown allowed FGCU the equalizer in the 61st minute. A terrible clearance by Epps was blocked and fell for FGCU’s Justin Gavin, and miscommunication between Epps and keeper Spasoje Stefanovic caused an awkward ricochet off somebody (go look at the highlights and figure it out yourself) and into the net.
The deadlock remained through the rest of the game. FGCU had the best chance to win with a free kick roughly 40 yards out that dipped hard toward the net, but was tipped away by Stefanovic.
In the shootout, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Ricardo Gomez, and Nazeem Bartman all stepped up, and all three missed. Gomez’s shot was the only on frame and it was saved. Stefanovic made one save, but his shooters couldn’t give him any help.
Coach Kiefer was...disappointed with the result, and the only one to talk after the game. “I think it’s a difficult game for us not to be moving on from, and at the same time, Bob (Butehorn) does a great job with Gulf Coast and we shook each other’s hands after the PKs, and when you leave it to that, it’s anybody’s game.”
The Bulls end their season 10-6-4, a surprising year after starting 0-3-2. The team dealt with a lot of injuries and key players missing from the lineup, especially early in the season, but a strong conference showing propelled the Bulls into the NCAA tournament for the ninth time in 10 years, and Kiefer’s 10th appearance in the NCAA as a head coach.