The USF men’s soccer team began the preseason on Tuesday night with a 4-1 victory over Eastern Florida State College.
The game could best be described as a freight train for the Bulls. It started very slowly with little cohesion in the midfield, but picked up speed and chemistry as the game went on. By the end of the game, USF had all the momentum and was cruising to an easy win.
EFSC came out aggressive, to the concern of some fans. It resulted in a picky game called by the referee, who called a total of four penalties (two on each team, 50% conversion rates). When Tomasz Skublak scored for USF in the 22nd minute, it was against the run of play. However, it also began the gaining of momentum by USF.
A returning Alex Zis showed fans just how much he was missed last season with a pair of sublime assists (both to Skublak) and a goal. Both were crosses, but his second was undoubtedly the more attractive of the two. In the 61st minute, Zis crossed an outswinger with the outside of his boot to the far post for Skublak to volley home from shoulder height. Zis also took care of USF’s first penalty of the night.
Stephen Rudderham returned to the starting lineup and made his case to start during the regular season with an excellent assist of his own. After running down a through ball by Skublak, the junior slotted the ball through three defenders for Trey Jackson to chip over the keeper.
Three of USF’s keepers received time tonight. Starter Harrison Devinish-Meares got 15 minutes and received the most action, making five saves. He also faced a penalty that rocked the crossbar and cleared itself to midfield. Christian Knight saw about 45 minutes of action, and had a penalty to face as well. Unfortunately his penalty was on frame and placed away from his dive.
Freshman keeper Kazuna Takase made his USF debut for the final 30 minutes of action. He didn’t have to make any saves on the night, but all three keepers were active in the game, aiding the back line in moving the ball around.
After the game, head coach Bob Butehorn wasn’t overly concerned with the early struggles, as the team was trying a few new tactical changes. Specifically, USF was playing some hybrid formations that allowed the attack-minded Avionne “Ayo” Flanagan to push up from his outside back role in into the attacking third of the field without compromising the defense. it became more effective as the game rolled on and players settled back into the grove of playing against a new opponent.
“We looked a little rough coming out of the gates, but I’m glad we settled in,” Butehorn said. “It’s a good team (EFSC) that we faced tonight. And I think in general, as the game went on, we got our feet underneath of us and played a little better. So I was pleased with that. It’s really just testing the aptitude of this group and see if they can manage that stuff. They did ok for the first night. I would say that I’m happy for where the starting block is.”
The Bulls will play the University of Tampa Spartans in the annual Rowdies Cup on Saturday. Reminder, this game will be played AT Tampa instead of USF per usual.