The USF men’s soccer team drew coach Bob Butehorn’s former team and in-state rival Florida Gulf Coast 1-1 in Tampa on Tuesday night.
The Eagles were the aggressors early on, creating fast break after fast break. In the 17th minute, USF keeper Christian Knight took down a streaking FGCU player in the box, drawing a penalty. Albert Ruiz stepped up and put it away to draw first blood for the Eagles.
The Bulls (6-5-3) would respond with some chances of their own, equalizing off a corner in the 35th minute. The inswinger (a corner kick curving towards the net) from Adrian Billhardt was touched on frame off the head of Gonzalo Rodriguez, drifting just over the outstretched hand of FGCU keeper Jared Brown.
Other than the goal, Brown had a fantastic game in net, turning away several point-blank chances by the Bulls and making six saves for FGCU. Knight had four saves for USF.
Not long after Rodriguez’s header put the Bulls back on terms, the Eagles went down a man. The fouls had been hard through the entire first half, but they came to a head when FGCU substitute Jordan Lue came flying into a contested header with Rodriguez at an illegal angle. He smacked heads with Rodriguez and both players crumpled instantly. Referee Jonathan Weiner immediately went to his back pocket for a red card to send Lue off. Forced to play with 10 men the rest of the way, the Eagles tapered off their attacking threat and sat back to play for a draw.
Neither team scored in the second half. USF’s Tomasz Skublak had the two best chances of the second half, but couldn’t put either on frame. Few real chances came in the first overtime period. In the second 10 minutes, FGCU had two open looks at goal, but lashed them both high and wide.
“I knew that FGCU was going to give us a tough game. There was going to be a lot of emotion in that game. I’m glad the way we responded, coming back and getting a goal,” said a tired Butehorn after the 1-1 draw. “It was one of those games that was tough to go through for me and a hard one for the team, but a good one for the fans maybe.” He said that it was hard for him to coach because of his strong ties to FGCU after spending a decade in Fort Myers. “I didn’t want to come out of the locker room.”
Asked about USF’s production slowing down in recent games, Butehorn attributed it to the fact that the team is young and the players are getting worn out due to the amount of games played over the course of three months. “We have a lot of freshmen that are getting major minutes and their bodies are shutting down. Look at our season and the amount of travel we’ve done. The teams we’ve played. This is why the idea of having a split season (across two semesters) makes so much sense, because these kids are just struggling. Their bodies are breaking down. So we’re hoping they get it back. Tonight was a little better, but you can see it.”
The men return to action on Senior Day this Sunday at 1:00 against league leaders and 12th-ranked SMU before closing the regular season at Temple next Saturday.