With the USF Men’s Soccer season kicking off this Saturday to start the 2019 season, it’s time to take a look at what the team is bringing to the table, and their season outlook as they attempt to get back into the NCAA Tournament after missing out the last two seasons.
Butehorn loves to schedule tough out-of-conference foes in his tenure as a head coach across different programs, this season will be no different. After three exhibition matches against Eastern Florida College, Eckerd College, and the Rowdies Cup against University of Tampa, USF will open regular season play by traveling up to College Park to take on the University of Maryland, the reigning national champions of Division I soccer. The Bulls will return home for matches against Marquette and Louisville, the Cardinals coming into the season ranked #14 and reigning ACC champs.
USF will then travel to play at Lipscomb, who was an NCAA Tournament team last year, before returning home to play Ohio State Buckeyes, and then traveling up to play University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Other non-conference games are slated throughout the season, including games against Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville University, and FIU.
AAC play will be the standard one game against every opponent format before entering the AAC tournament, marquee games at home will be the War on I-4 at home against C. and reigning champion SMU.
Bob Butehorn’s coaching staff had to make a few changes with departures and shake ups to the assistant staff. Butehorn rounded out his coaching staff with assistant coaches Jeremy Hurdle and Matt Poplawski, director of operations Tom Homa, and Tomas Cerda as the volunteer assistant coach.
Hurdle was promoted from director of operations last season at USF, and has experience coaching and received National Soccer Coaches Association of America “30-under-30” honors while serving as a coach at the University of Pennsylvania.
Poplawski spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Wake Forest, where he helped lead the Demon Deacons to a 37-5-2 record, an ACC Championship, and a No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Homa is joining the Bulls program after serving as a graduate assistant at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While at Augsburg, the program won the MIAC championship and received an NCAA Tournament appearance in Division III.
Rounding out the coaching staff Tomas Cerda has been with Butehorn since 2011 when Butehorn coached Cerda at Florida Gulf Coast. He transitioned to a coaching role in 2013, and will handle the goalkeepers as the volunteer coach.
USF will need to rely on familiar faces, as well as the youth from last season to continue their growth and impact for the Bulls to re-establish their dominance in the conference. The bad news is USF will need to replace two of their top scorers last season, after Tomasz Skublak graduated and was picked up by HFX Wanderers in the Canadian Premier League, and Alex Zis has moved on to Guelph University in Canada. The positive news is there’s a wealth of experience and playing time coming into this season, and the new freshmen are bringing a bevy of international experience. Once again, we will work our way from back-to-front and then by class for each position.
Starting in goal, Senior Aussie Harrison Devenish-Mears will look to build on a junior campaign that saw him finish first in the conference with 4.0 saves per game. He was able to record a five-save performance against Ohio State to blank the Buckeyes, and tallied another shutout against Memphis. All-in-all, Harrison recorded 64 saves in 16 games played.
Behind Harrison, sophomore Kazuna Takase (Tomoto, Japan) is the only Bull to record any minutes played last year. Takase started against FIU and record three saves. Sophomore Berk Watson (Roswell, GA) and freshmen Cooper Blay (Gainesville, FL) will round out the keeper roster.
In front of them, the defense will have the benefit of having senior Jonathan Rosales (Kissimmee, FL) being the vocal leader after starting in 16-of-17 games last season and gathered three assists. Junior Avionne Flanagan (Baltimore, MD) made second team all-conference last season, chipped in two goals, and will look to build upon his sophomore campaign. Other contributing members of the defense this year will be junior Freddy Gil (West Palm Beach, FL), who started 5-of-15 games last season and junior Javain Brown (Kingston, Jamaica) who redshirted, but snagged some playing time for the Reggae Boyz [Ed. Note: That’s their actual nickname. I googled it and everything] Senior National Team.
Sophomore Henrique Gallina (Atibaia, Brazil) made the AAC all-rookie team in 2018, scoring once and gathering an assist and sophomore Marcus Murphy (Orange Park, FL) comes into the 2019 campaign starting 14-of-15 games played last season, including an AAC honor roll performance during a shutout victory of Memphis. Freshmen newcomers are Sergio Pineros-Mayorga (Tampa, FL), and Salvatore Mazzaferro (Caledon East, Ontario, Canada).
In the midfield, senior Stephen Rudderham (St. Petersburg, FL) will provide leadership to a group of six juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman. Rudderham recorded three goals and one assist last year in 15 games (three starts). Junior Emilio Ycaza (St. Petersburg, FL) contributed heavily in 2018 with three goals and three assists after starting 14-of-17 games played. Junior Trey Jackson (Ocala, FL) was right behind him with two goals and one assist and started 6-of-17 games played. Junior Josue Monge (Philadelphia, PA) scored twice starting in 12-of-16 games played, and junior Diego Guerrero (San Salvador, El Salvador) recorded one goal and one assist starting 4 games last year, but logged 482 minutes. Lastly, junior Santiago Burgos (Miami, FL) missed all of last season with an injury, but should contribute some more minutes this year.
The three sophomore midfielders all had to contribute quite a bit during their freshmen year last year, with sophomore Felipe Baptista (Pembroke Pines, FL) scoring two goals in 13 games last year. Sophomore Gordon Phipps (Weston, FL) contributed a goal for his own and started in 2-of-10 games played last year, sophomore Richard Laval (Madrid, Spain) started 10 games last year, but didn’t register a goal or assist last year. Freshmen newcomer in the midfield is Vinicius Loureiro who comes from Fortaleza, Brazil.
The forward position for USF might see some growing pains, as they will look to replace leading goal scorer from last season Tomasz Skublak. On the USF roster, only four players are listed under the forward position with junior Adrian Billhardt (Berlin, Germany) being the only one who was on the roster last season. Billhardt collected four assist and started in 13-of-16 games played last year, so he will need to lead a group of young forwards with three freshmen in the ranks behind him.
Those three freshmen are bringing some domestic and international experience, with Braden Ammon coming from Orange Park, FL and helped Oakleaf High School win the 4A state championship last year with an assist on the game-winning goal. Freshmen Victor Claudel (Strasbourg, France) played with the Strasbourg Pro Academy and scored 20 goals and 11 assists with Strasbourg through the U17 and U19 levels. Lastly, freshmen Ignasi Lupon Fores (Barcelona, Spain) played for CE Europa U19 in Division de Honor, the highest amateur level in Spain.
The 2019 campaign will be a tough one for USF, with a mixture of tough non-conference slate, and the American being improved across the board. Unfortunately for USF, our rivals in Oviedo ranked #15 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll, and have two players on the MAC Hermann Watch List, an award that goes to the top men’s and women’s soccer player in Division I soccer.
For USF to contend in the league this year, they’ll need an explosive goal scorer to emerge, as they ended last season with a +3 goal differential. This season will see Coach Bob Butehorn experiment with the lineup and putting his players in the best position to win.