Nov. 8, 2009

Courtesy of South Florida

TAMPA (November 8, 2009) – As the University of South Florida men’s soccer team made its way through the first 35 minutes of its BIG EAST Conference Tournament quarterfinals match this afternoon at Notre Dame, it certainly looked like the Bulls would cruise to a decisive win and advance to its second straight BIG EAST semifinal round and an opportunity to defend its 2008 tournament title.

But that ended up not being the case as the Fighting Irish defeated the Bulls today, 2-2 (5-4 in penalty kicks) at Alumni Stadium.

The Bulls, ranked No. 13 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll and No. 9 in the Soccer America Top 25, looked like they were going to take care of business early as they immediately dictated the tempo of the match.

Before anybody really got situated, Jorge Mora struck with his fourth goal of the season. The goal came on USF’s first shot of the match from a deflection off a Notre Dame defender from the 18 to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game. Hasani Sinclair and Sebastien Thuriere were credited with the assists.

After Sinclair got two good shots off that went just wide in the third and ninth minute respectively, Sinclair and Kevin Olali would record assists getting the ball to Thuriere for a header into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season in the 22nd minute.

The Fighting Irish, however, would not go down easily getting their first goal of the game, after several opportunities late in the first half. Bright Dike would take a pass from Michael Thomas in the 42nd minute and volley it in past USF keeper Jeff Attinella to cut the Bulls’ lead to one goal.

After Dike’s goal, Notre Dame picked up even more momentum as the intermission drew closer. Less than a minute later the Bulls’ Francisco Aristugieta was issued his second yellow card of the match which resulted in a red card causing USF to play a man down for the rest of the game.

Notre Dame came out in the second half and immediately looked to take that momentum, from the goal and the red card, and use it to its advantage.

After Thuriere attempted a header in the 50th minute – USF’s first shot since its second goal of the game in the 22nd minute; a stretch of 28 minutes – the Fighting Irish stepped up the intensity with several big opportunities between the 51st minute and the 80th minute that either went wide of the net or high.

The lone exception of those shots that missed the goal was a one-on-one opportunity for Dike from about five yards out with Attinella in the 74th minute, a shot that the Bulls’ keeper made a spectacular diving save for.

Notre Dame would eventually tie the game up at 2-2, nine minutes later in the 83rd minute, when Aaron Maund connected off a Dillon Powers corner kick for his first goal of the season.

After a Notre Dame foul, USF’s Bernardo Anor would get a last chance in regulation with just over one minute remaining, only to have the shot saved by the Irish’s goalkeeper Phillip Tuttle and keeping the match deadlocked at two-apiece.

Notre Dame would outscore the Bulls 3-0 in the first 10-minute overtime period with the Fighting Irish’s best chance coming in the 93rd minute that Attinella would make a save on.

Both teams would each get off two shots in the second 10-minute session. USF would get two heart-stopping opportunities just seconds apart in the 104th minute when Anor put a shot on goal that was deflected, and then Zak Boggs went wide on a shot from about four yards out.

A header by Notre Dame’s Powers was blocked as time expired leading to penalty kicks.

In the penalty kick round, The Fighting Irish would make all five of their attempts, and the Bulls their first four shots. Thuriere, who scored USF’s second goal of the match, was the Bulls’ last chance to send the match to a second five-shot penalty kick round, however his attempt high and to the middle deflected off the crossbar and over the goal.

USF will now wait until Monday, Nov. 16 to find out its NCAA Tournament fate when the Division I men’s soccer tournament field is announced on ESPN News between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.