TAMPA – Zak Boggs’ spectacular free kick in the 31st minute provided the only goal of the game as South Florida took a big step towards a bye and home field for the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with a 1-0 win against DePaul on Wednesday night at the USF Soccer Stadium.
After Hasani Sinclair was pushed over from behind outside the DePaul penalty area to the left of center, Boggs saw DePaul goalkeeper Joe Ferrari cheating away from the right corner of the net, and fired a curling shot into the top right corner that Ferrari couldn’t recover in time to stop.
“Great goal by Zak,” Bulls coach George Kiefer said. “There wasn’t a lot of stuff to play quick one-twos and get behind them, they took that away, so we got it off the restart tonight.”
In fact, most of the Bull best opportunities came from outside the penalty area, as the Blue Demons played a compact, defensive formation that made it difficult for South Florida to create scoring chances inside the box. The long-range chances the Bulls were able to create were dealt with well for the most part by Ferrari, although he was only able to parry one shot by Boggs in the first half before recovering to thwart Sinclair’s rebound chance.
“It was pretty tough,” Boggs said. “They did compact the game, especially in the second half, but I thought our chances from distance were pretty good.”
Sebastian Thuriere in particular had a strong game, having a fierce shot well saved by Ferrari, and being energetic in midfield to win possession in the Blue Demons' half to set up potential openings. Bernado Anor also showed good energy off the bench after having sat out the past two games with a hip flexor, while Sinclair also had a chance turned away in the second half.
Most of DePaul’s best opportunities came in a late flurry as it tried to get back on even terms as time wound down. Despite a few scares Bulls goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, who was named Big East goalkeeper of the week for the third time this season on Monday, recorded his seventh shutout.
“I thought they’d come out a little more after we got the goal, but I didn’t see them do that too much other than the last 10 minutes of the game, but I felt like we handled that well,” Kiefer said. “I thought our movement, the chances we created were good, the closing off of their outlets keeping them pinned in their end was very good. I thought it was a very good performance tonight.”
The Bulls travel to Rutgers to close out the season on Saturday night. A victory would guarantee them a bye and home field as the No.2 seed from the Red division, and if it were to be coupled with a loss by Louisville against Villanova, the Bulls would earn the top seed in the bracket.
“I think we try not to make any game more important or less important, to have to right focus, and this group does a good job of coming out prepared for games,” Kiefer said. “We’ve got a very good road record as well this year, so we should be in good shape.”