Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Colleges: Even keel paying dividends for Bulls

TAMPA – You might think that a game against Louisville, a side also ranked in the Top 25 and tied with South Florida for first place in the Big East Red division, would provide a little extra juice for the Bulls as they prepare for Wednesday night.

But then, an even temperament is what has gotten the No.6-ranked Bulls to this point, and they’re not going to change now.

“I think we’re always excited to play any game,” Bulls coach George Kiefer said. “What Louisville’s record, what South Florida’s record is going in, once the game starts, I try not to be too concerned with that stuff.”

That attitude is reflected around the team, which is treating Wednesday’s game no differently than any other.

“Each Big East game is competitive, and we go each day at a time,” defender Javed Mohammed said. “Today we practiced on certain things … and that’s what we do every day, we take each day at a time, and when Louisville comes, they come.”

Kiefer said he expects his side to have learned the lessons of the one loss the Bulls suffered this season against West Virginia on Wednesday, and will look to manage the game better than they did then.

“Louisville is a very aggressive defensively, they step up and pressure you,” Kiefer said. “It’s important that we understand what they’re looking for, and we don’t feed it. And sooner or later, when they’re not getting rewarded for what they’re trying to do, then they slow down a little bit. It’s real important we are very smart tactically. I feel we learned a lot from West Virginia two weeks ago where I feel very good about going into this game and playing it right tactically.”

ATTINELLA HONORED AGAIN: Jeff Attinella became the first Big East goalkeeper this season to earn a second Goalkeeper of the Week award on Monday, his penalty save against Cincinnati the key moment in his fourth shutout of the season.

The former Countryside High standout previously won the award on September 14 after a pair of shutouts against Valparaiso and Virginia Tech.

SETTING THE TABLE: Mohammed has been a key figure for the Bulls this season, leading the team with four assists thanks to his consistency on set pieces. Mohammed’s free kick on Saturday night found Ashani Fairclough for the Bulls opening goal against Cincinnati in a 2-0 win, and he was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com’s National Team of the Week on Monday.

Mohammed said he was known for having a good left foot when he was growing up in Trinidad, and that he had continued to work on since he came to USF.

“The more I’ve practiced, the more I’ve been able to put the ball in that one spot,” Mohammed said. “I’ve just kept on practicing, and I think I’ve gotten a lot better.”

The Bulls have placed an emphasis on creating chances from dead-ball situations, and Kiefer said he is pleased Mohammed has been rewarded for the work he’s put in beyond the Bulls regular practices.

“That’s from Javed wanting to get better at it, and putting time in over the summer to strike and repetition of serves, and it’s paying off for him,” Kiefer said. “He’ll stay out here a lot after practice and work on that stuff.

FITTING IN FINE: Fairclough gave a big smile when asked about his first goal for the Bulls on Monday, but his play in the center of defense has had a smile on Kiefer’s face for most of the season.

Fairclough played as a defensive midfielder before he came to South Florida, but the freshman has melded into the heart of a Bulls defense that has allowed only five goals in nine games this season.

“There were some things early on we were cleaning up with him,” Kiefer said. “But he’s also very intelligent, and very good student, you know he’s got a good soccer brain, so you tell him something once or twice and he picks it up.”

Fairclough credits Kiefer and the Bulls coaching staff for what he has been able to accomplish so far this season.

“The coaching staff has helped me very much,” Fairclough said. “Coming in here, it’s a great group of guys, and we’ve been working hard.”

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