TAMPA – The disappointment of missing out on a bye in the first round of the Big East tournament has dissipated for No.13 South Florida, which is now firmly focused on one of the two teams that held the Bulls to a tie on their home field in the regular season.
“When you look at it, we would have liked the bye, but there’s nothing we can look back and do about it now, we get to have a home game on Thursday,” said goalkeeper Jeff Attinella after Tuesday morning’s practice.
Marquette earned a point at the USF Soccer Stadium in both side's opening game of the Big East schedule, Bernardo Anor’s opening goal being cancelled out by Adam Lysak’s finish in the second half. The Bulls had a late chance to earn victory, but Javed Mohammed sent his penalty kick wide in the final minute of regulation.
In that contest Marquette used a tight, defensive system and tried to hit the Bulls on the counter-attack, but South Florida coach George Kiefer said the Golden Eagles have made some changes since the two teams played in September.
“I think they’re a better team, they have some guys that were out for their first game that are now starting that make them better, so I think the two games will be completely different,” Kiefer said. “I think we’re better, I think they’re better, but we’ll keep focusing on South Florida. We can’t control what Marquette is going to do, so we’ll just try to get sharper at what we do.”
An inward focus has been at the forefront of practice, with captain Francisco Aristeguieta believing that if the Bulls just need to concentrate on doing what they do well.
“We’re really trying to focus on getting our things better, trying to get a little better every day,” Aristeguieta said. “We don’t change for any team, so we just try to do the things we do a little better every time.”
Attinella said that the result against Rutgers apart, the Bulls are playing their best soccer of the season at the right moment, but that they are expecting Marquette to come in to the game confident because of the prior result. Kiefer, though, expects the fact that the Golden Eagles did earn a point in their last trip to Tampa to be a motivating factor for a good performance by his side.
“They’re one of the few teams that took a couple of points from us at home, so I think that lends itself to be a great opportunity for our guys,” Kiefer said. “It’s not often you get a chance at a team that took points from you, so I look forward to that.”