TAMPA – One of the more impressive facets of South Florida’s 1-0 overtime victory against Valparaiso was the composure the players showed on the ball despite the pressure the Crusaders tried to impart on the Bulls’ defense and midfield.
Even when passing into pressure, the Bulls appeared to make far better decisions than in their game against Central Florida seven days earlier. Bulls coach George Kiefer said he thought the team was becoming more comfortable with itself, and that was leading to better chemistry and trust on the field.
“I think it’s guys understanding each other more and understanding the system more,” Kiefer said. “That’s what’s good about our game, you have to learn each other. You pick up habits, and I do think we’re moving the ball better. I think in a few weeks we’ll be moving it even better.”
Kiefer now hopes the team can turn the possession into quicker transitions upfield. The Bulls were often frustrated by the Crusaders, who recovered well defensively, and kept compact making it hard for the Bulls to break them down.
Midfielder Jorge Mora said he thought that the team would be able to convert defense into attack more quickly as the season went on.
“The main focus it to try and keep the ball, and now we want to focus more on becoming more dangerous, going to goal and creating chances,” Mora said. “Once we get that, the goals will come and we’ll be a more dangerous team.”
FIRM FOUNDATION: With three of the fours starters returning to the Bulls back four, it’s no surprise that South Florida has played well defensively so far this season. While the Bulls did concede 10 corners against Valparaiso, it only allowed three shots on goal.
In addition, full backs Javed Mohammed and Aubrey Perry helped bring width to the Bulls when they went forward. Mohammed’s work from dead ball situations has also played a role in both the game-winners against Florida Gulf Coast, where he scored, and Valparaiso, where his free kick set up Bernardo Anor’s header.
“They’re all comfortable and used to each other,” Kiefer said. “There is a real emphasis on them moving off the ball to help each other, and they’re doing a good job of that. I think it makes their job easier when they do do that.”
Perry said the defense, and the team overall, can feel its confidence building.
“There’s still some stuff we have to work on, but as far as confidence goes I think we’re definitely getting there,” Perry said. “We can only get better, and that always helps.”
TOUGH TEST: South Florida travels to face Virginia Tech on Friday, its final game before it opens Big East play on September 18 at home against Marquette. Perry said he is excited to face the Hokies, who are currently 1-1-1 after a 2-1 win against Milwaukee on Sunday.
“One of our goals this year was to get better on the road,” Perry said, “so we’re always excited to travel and see if we can live up to that. It’s a good ACC opponent, Virginia Tech, and I’ve never been up there, so I think we’re all excited to go up there and play.”