The men’s soccer season opener saw the USF Bulls comfortably dispatch the Lipscomb Bisons 3-0 on Monday night in Tampa.
There was an hour lightning delay before the game, and the rain continued through the match, but the Bulls played as if everything was on track. It became clear pretty quickly that USF was the athletically superior team. They commanded possession and spreading Lipscomb all over the field trying to chase the ball, then pressured early and often when they didn’t have the ball.
The breakthrough came in the 28th minute. Freshman Adrian Billhardt sent a through ball to senior Bradley Farias, who dribbled into the right side of the six-yard box and slotted the ball home. All three of USF’s goals would come from the right side of the six.
After a wet halftime (I don’t think I’ll ever be fully dry again), the Bulls came out and continued their dominance. Freshman Alex Zis tallied his first career goal in the 51st minute. Junior Gonzalo Rodriguez intercepted a pass upfield from the Bison defense, and sent it to a streaking Zis. Zis cut inside at the top of the six and beat Lipscomb keeper Christopher Zappia to double the Bulls’ advantage.
Trey Jackson also officially opened his USF account in the 85th minute. After sustained pressure from Lipscomb, a punt from sophomore USF keeper Harrison Devenish-Mears deflected off a Lipscomb player into touch (out of bounds). Sophomore Stephen Rudderham quickly took the throw, chucking it straight over the heads of two stationary defender to an open Jackson. Jackson took the ball to the right corner of the six and found the net for the final goal of the game.
USF fired off 20 total shots to Lipscomb’s 11. Keeper Devenish-Mears (who seems to have won the starting job from Christian Knight) had a generally quiet night, only making three saves. However, Lipscomb was awarded a free kick with three seconds left (the clock can stop at the ref’s discretion in the college game in the place of stoppage). Devenish-Mears then made a spectacular save, tipping the ball just over the bar to preserve his clean sheet.
Coach Bob Butehorn was pleased with his team’s ability to make opponents run, as long as they had a purpose to their running. He also commented that he felt the rain did not change the game too much for USF, though the slick playing surface seemed to play right into USF’s strategy and made the game overall easier to control.
One notable change that wasn’t clear during preseason was the number of subs made by Coach Butehorn. During Monday’s game, he made only five subs, and after the game he commented on college soccer’s liberal substitution rules. “I try to let the players get a feel and understanding for the game, not throw them into a panic. I want them to play and make mistakes and learn from those. If we could ever change the substitution rule, it would be three or four subs. It would have the ebbs and flows of a real (professional) game. For me, you can see that you let a kid get in there, settle and learn, watch and know they’ll at least get 15-20 minutes.”
The Bulls now head to Bloomington to take on #25 Butler and #7 Indiana next weekend, before traveling to Omaha to face #14 Creighton. They return home Thursday, September 14 against Stetson.