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Weekly Roundup: The Only Game In Town Edition

Once again, USF loses on the road to a ranked team, but plays better than the score indicated.

USF’s Ricardo Gomez takes a corner kick against Creighton.
USF’s Ricardo Gomez takes a corner kick against Creighton.
Gary Stephen

With all due respect to my colleague Connor Akeman, who usually does the Weekly Roundup, I’ll be handling it this week. Why? Because USF Athletics only had one event this weekend, and I was able to report on it.

The USF men’s soccer team fell 2-0 to Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska. Much like the Indiana and Butler games, it was a tight match on the road against a Top 25 squad, where the final score betrays how close the game was.

But before I talk about the game, let’s address the team’s travel situation. Their travel plans were to return to Atlanta Saturday morning, which they did. They had a contingency plan in place for an extended stay in Atlanta, which turned out to be necessary. So they are safe and sound, and didn’t try to fly home in advance of the hurricane.

USF came out in a 4-3-3 formation, as they have all season, with one lineup change: freshman Avionne Flanagan, listed on the roster as a defender, started as a forward on the left side. This seemed an inspired move, as Flanagan was dangerous all night long, and was the quickest player on the field by far. He also put in several excellent crosses, one of which Jonathan Rosales nearly got on the end of just before halftime.

The first half was tight and deliberate. USF pressed almost all the time, while Creighton preferred to remain back, though both teams looked to retain possession. It resembled a post-season match, in which neither team wants to make a mistake. Creighton had most of the possession the first 10 minutes, but their poor finishing betrayed them at times. (Also, having four players offside at one point. I don’t know how that even happened.) USF controlled the latter stages of the half, but struggled to get shots off, and had two corner kicks snuffed out immediately by defenders. USF nearly scored just before halftime, on the aforementioned Flanagan cross.

The second half was more wide open. But, as is often the case in tight 0-0 games, it was one great individual play that decided it. Creighton made a key adjustment at halftime, swapping the positions of midfielder Luke Haakenson and forward Marios Lomis. Haakenson rewarded this move by taking a long pass, making a great individual play to beat his defender, then slotted a shot past USF goalkeeper Harrison Devenish-Meares.

USF had some nice possession and build up after the goal, but never put together a scoring chance as dangerous as their near-goal at the end of the first. Creighton tacked on a late goal to make the final score 2-0.

The game was played before a crowd of 3,889 fans at “Socctoberfest”, an annual event at Creighton that always draws a big crowd. There’s a large beer tent down by the goal closest to campus (pictured above), and “no alcohol past this point” signs before you enter the sideline stands. You can probably piece together the workings of it.

After the game, I asked coach Bob Butehorn if he knew he volunteered to be the visitor in such an environment; his answer was an emphatic yes. “We played at Indiana their biggest game of the year, we played here, we go to Louisville in a couple weeks... This is the type of environment we want to play in, and we want our guys to embrace it.”

That cemented the impression I had formed of the team under new coach Butehorn, which is that they’re an ambitious lot. They pressed almost the entire game, on the road, against a top 25 opponent, and didn’t look out of place. But finishing has been an issue. The team has had good possession and build-up - play-making midfielder Adrian Billhardt looks like a star in the making - but it didn’t result in good looks at the Creighton goal. Coach Butehorn said after the game said his team needed to stop “trying to score the perfect goal” and take more shots.

They’ll get a chance to do that as three non-conference teams come to Corbett Stadium: Stetson, Loyola Marymount, and North Florida before conference play begins.