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USF Men’s Soccer Retains Rowdies Cup With 3-1 Win Over Tampa Spartans

A Stephen Rudderham hat trick propelled the Bulls to their first piece of silverware for the season.

USF men’s soccer poses with the Rowdies Cup 2018
Carl Zee

The men’s soccer team retained the Rowdies Cup with a 3-1 win over the University of Tampa at Pepin Stadium in downtown Tampa on Saturday night.

Junior Stephen Rudderham stole headlines with a hat trick, assisted twice by senior strike partner Tomasz Skublak and converting a late penalty. His first goal was nearly saved, but his header across the net was just far enough away from Spartan keeper Jake Richards to sneak inside the far post in the 23rd minute.

Rudderham’s second was world class. In the 46th minute into the second half, he received another cross from Skublak. Rudderham played it off his chest and struck a pure volley straight into the top corner on the same move to stun the crowd.

After the game, Rudderham talked a little bit about his transition from midfield to striker.

“(The coaches) are really good at attacking and transitioning players to their new spots,” Rudderham said. “It really hasn’t been too tough. Playing with the other forwards? They always give you opportunities.”

The Bulls started slow again, but worked up to speed faster than their first exhibition vs. Eastern Florida State College.

USF played their hybrid 4-4-2/4-3-3 again during the first half, which appears to be the preferred tactic going into the season. The formation switched to a hard 4-3-3 during the second half when Skublak came out of the game just after Rudderham’s second goal.

“The first half was pretty effective, and it can be pretty dangerous,” said coach Bob Butehorn after the game. “Especially with Ruddy with in those spots and he got a goal pretty quickly (in the second half).”

Despite the similar looks between both preseason games, Butehorn reiterated his belief on being able to play different looks.

“I’ll try to get where they have some understanding of a couple different formations to allow us some flexibility and they can move within it depending on what we’re facing.”

Along the back line, freshmen Marcus Murphy and Henrique Gallina played the whole game as the center back pairing. With the outside backs playing so far up the pitch at times, they got tested several times at snuffing out counter-attacks. The Spartans managed a scrappy goal in the second half, but the pairing showed growth during the game.

Coach Butehorn again: “I thought Henrique and Marcus did fantastic back there. They’re both very responsible kids, and this has been two good tests for them. They’re playing against men, they’re big kids, and we’re going to Michigan and Michigan State so those are areas where they’ll be tested again.”

While not registering on the scoresheet, sophomores Trey Jackson and Avionne “Ayo” Flanagan both had standout games. Ayo drew the penalty that allowed Rudderham to reach his hat trick on one of his numerous runs into the box. Jackson and junior Jonathan Rosales tormented the right side of UT’s defense with several cutting runs that eventually opened up lanes for each to dribble inside and shoot.

Goaltending was split between junior Harrison Devenish-Mears and freshman Kazuna Takase. Original starting lineups indicated that Christian Knight would make his first appearance, but coach Butehorn revealed after the game that Knight had injured his hand. Also out with an undisclosed injury was Richard Laval, a freshman from Atletico Madrid’s U19 team.

The Bulls heads to Big Ten country to start the season with massive tests vs. #7 Michigan State and #21 Michigan. Their home opener is August 31st vs. Virginia Tech.