USF men’s soccer continued to get back on track with a 1-0 victory over the UNF Ospreys on Wednesday night at Corbett Soccer Stadium. It was the second straight win for the Bulls (2-3-2) following a five-game winless streak to start the season.
Nazeem Bartman was the lone goal-scorer, slotting home a ground cross in the second half from Marcus Epps along the top of the six-yard box.
After a 30-minute lightning delay, UNF took command early, dominating possession and chances. Lindo Mfeka had a solid early chance, but no shot came. Gabriel Pfeffer started the game well, but went down early to a leg/ankle injury and would not return. He was seen in a boot coming out after halftime.
USF looked generally slower and less aggressive in the first half than UNF. It must have been quite a halftime team talk by coach George Kiefer, though, because USF flipped the script in the second half.
With Mfeka and Epps back in the lineup, the danger of the full USF attack finally began to rear its head. The combination of Bartman, Mfeka, Epps, Becket and Gomez began to overwhelm UNF, and Bartman’s lone tally finally arrived in the 56th minute.
From there, surprisingly, USF slowed the pace of the game down. It was an interesting change of pace, and it succeeded in frustrating the Ospreys, who took what seemed to be two frustration cards late in the game. Keeper Spasoje Stefanovic made two noteworthy saves, one off a free kick, and one denying a lone forward a shot, to keep the shutout.
The Bulls have not at their best this season, and that continued in this game. There have been too many gaps to fill on a regular basis to allow the team to form a real rhythm.
But! They’re starting to look like the team they could be. Losing Pfeffer will be a hit, as he’s quietly been one of the better players on the field the past couple games, but Cliff Maina made a commendable effort off the bench in his place.
The two wins at home will go a long way towards restoring the team’s mental toughness. They have all the physical skill they need to make a run in the NCAA, but they haven’t been all there mentally. If the Bulls can win the last game in this four-game homestand, it will help build the belief and continue developing the rhythm they’ve been unable to form so far.
USF faces the undefeated University of Buffalo (Bulls vs Bulls!) this Sunday at 1. Show up, it’s going to be a hell of a game.