The USF men’s soccer team followed up its successful trip to Ohio with a 4-1 domination of FAU in Tampa on Monday night.
The Bulls (2-4-0) picked up their first win of the season at THE Ohio State this past weekend, scoring in the first half and clinging to the lead through the second half playing down a man. Senior striker Tomasz Skublak was sent off at halftime for a “scuffle on the sideline.”
So without the senior striker, the #9 position fell to junior Stephen Rudderham on the starting lineup, who came back against Ohio State from a financial issue. The junior didn’t crack the score sheet but his speed opened up the game for other players on the outside.
Trey Jackson opened scoring with his best Arjen Robben impression. Streaking down the right side, he cut left at the top of the box and curled the ball to the back post for the opening goal in the 32nd minute.
Sophomore winger Avionne “Ayo” Flanagan scored the game winner six minutes later. Freshman Henrique Gallina, playing midfield instead of center back, beat two defenders on the touch line and found Flanagan alone in the box. Flanagan’s shot deflected off an Owl and rolled across the line as Flanagan ran off to celebrate with his signature backflip.
Junior midfielder Alex Zis scored the last two, the first on a free kick from just outside the box in the 71st minute, and the second from a penalty in the 78th. Ayo would win the penalty, toying with his defender by beating his defender twice with the same move and provoking a poorly timed foul in the box.
“I was pleased, we set out with a pretty good game plan to be disciplined in the way we approached it,” said Coach Bob Butehorn after the game. “We played a really emotional game against Ohio State and we had to. I said look, lets get emotions out of this game, get all about the job at hand, and lets get focused on what we’re trying to do.”
Butehorn was pleased with how the team started the game and with good reason. The Bulls pressed FAU early and often, earning a series of free kicks near or in the attacking third early. The Bulls crossed a lot of balls in but couldn’t quite find the finish. It was only when Jackson (who I might start calling Robben given how often he cuts left) whipped in the first goal that USF started to really find their shooting boots.
The Owls would nick a goal back late in the 86th minute off a corner when USF was trying to salt the game away. The Bulls and Coach Butehorn were notably disappointed to have missed the shutout, but not too much as Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” could be heard emanating from the post-game locker room for the first time this season.
“You just hope you continue to get better each game,” said Butehorn. “It sounds a little bit cliche-ish, but with our group, I’ve said all along I like they way they train, I like their attitude, I like their composure. At times, they’re gonna make mistakes, and it’s how they react to those mistakes. I think what you’re seeing now is the team just getting better and enjoying each other’s company, and looking forward to the next one.”
That next one is a trip this weekend to Fort Myers to face FGCU, Butehorn’s former team.
“There’s gonna be a lot of passion for me going back there. I enjoyed the time I had there, but now it’s back to where, this (USF) is my group. We’re gonna go in there and build a good game plan and try to get a W. It’s a tough place to play, I know. I created that thing, I know it’s hard, fans will be good. It’ll be a great environment. We’re prepared for it, it’ll be hard, but that’s what we want.”
For any fans not making the trip to Chicago, the Bulls kick off at FGCU this Saturday at 7:00 p.m.