FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team begins its highly-anticipated 2014 season Friday night under the lights of the FGCU Soccer Complex as the four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference Champions host rival USF at 7.
The two Gulf Coast rivals will be meeting for the sixth-straight season, including each of the last two season openers for each side. Last year the two squads met at USF and played to a 2-2 double-overtime tie in a game that ended at 1:21 a.m. after the Eagles worked their way out of one-goal deficits on two occasions as part of the NSCAATV National Game of the Week.
WHAT TO KNOW
Friday’s match is a Blueout, with all fans in attendance encouraged to wear blue. All fans are invited to join the Dirty Birds as they march to the match beginning from the tennis courts at 6:15. Friday is also Charlotte County Soccer Club Night, and several members of the youth team will participate in a halftime scrimmage on the pitch.
The game will be video streamed free of charge by visiting ASun.TV. Live stats will also be available by following FGCUStats.com. FGCU students, faculty and staff are admitted free of charge with their Eagle ID, while adult tickets start at $6, a family pack (good for two adults and 3-5 children) is $18 and groups of 10 or more are $3. For additional ticket information, visit FGCUAthletics.com/tickets/soccer.
Fans are encouraged to download the brand-new #WingsUp mobile app in conjunction with SuperFanU prior to arriving at Friday’s match. The fully-customized loyalty-rewards platform allows fans to check in at each of FGCU’s sporting events to earn points throughout the school year toward exclusive prizes that can’t be offered anywhere else.
DID YOU KNOW?
This is just the second time in program history that FGCU will open a season at home. The first came during the 2011 year versus FAU. The Eagles will also be at home next Thursday and Saturday, marking the first time that FGCU will play three home games to open a season (FGCU has never played even two straight games at home to begin a season).
INSIDE THE RIVALRY
USF owns a 1-3-2 overall record in the series, which dates back to the 2009 season, but the matches have been much closer than the overall mark indicates. In 2012, the Bulls and the Eagles met in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Tampa. After 120 minutes of scoreless action, USF triumphed via a 5-3 decision in penalty kicks. The two sides also met in the ’12 regular season with USF claiming a win in that game (the NCAA Tournament match was officially recorded as a tie).
A pair of losses, 1-0 in 2009 and 2-0 in 2011, were sandwiched between FGCU’s only win in the series – a 2-1 victory during the 2010 campaign when USF was ranked No. 13 in the nation. That victory came at USF in the season opener as the Green and Blue used two second-half goals to silence the crowd of 1,424, snap USF’s 30-game home unbeaten streak (26-0-4) and earn their first win over a ranked opponent in the program’s history.
Last year, the two sides were put on display for the nation to see, but were delayed until a 10:53 p.m. start due to thunderstorms and a USF women’s soccer game which preceded the men’s contest and went to double-overtime as well. After waiting nearly three hours to get on the pitch, USF didn’t even wait three minutes to get on the scoreboard as the Bulls tallied a goal just 2:05 into the match. However, a 19th-minute strike from Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS) tied the game, and a Santiago Echeverri (Kissimmee, Fla./Celebration HS) finish in the 60th minute re-tied the game as the two sides played well into the night with each having several great chances over the remaining hour of action.
LAST YEAR’S SUMMARY
FGCU started last year 0-5-1 before rebounding to close the year with an 8-7-2 record. The Eagles’ 6-1-1 mark in A-Sun action helped the program become the first team in A-Sun history to win four straight regular-season titles.
USF actually finished the 2013 season with more ties than wins as the Bulls concluded the year 8-4-9 overall and 2-2-4 in the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls won the inaugural AAC Championship last year before losing to North Carolina in the NCAA First Round.
USF – which has made seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances – will be the first of four opponents on FGCU’s non-conference schedule which participated in the NCAA Tournament last year. Highlighting the grueling slate are home matches against three of those four NCAA participants, including 2010 National Champion Akron and last year’s No. 2 overall seed Washington. The six other teams on the Eagles’ non-conference docket have made an astonishing 80 combined NCAA tournament appearances.
PRESEASON POLLS AND TEAMS
FGCU — which returns all 11 starters and did not lose any players to graduation from the 2013 campaign — has been installed as the 2014 preseason league favorites along with Lipscomb. Additionally, five of the 13 Preseason All-A-Sun Team members hail from FGCU, led by Preseason Co-Player of the Year Rodrigo Saravia.
Joining defender Saravia (Guatemala City, Guatemala/College Internacional Montessori) on the all-conference team is fellow defender Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS), midfielder Steven Oliveri (Stuart, Fla./Jensen Beach HS) and forwards DeSousa and Henry Penagos (Margate, Fla./American Heritage School of Boca). In a testament to the depth and talent of the roster head coach Bob Butehorn has built, only Penagos is a senior, while the other four members are juniors.
The Green and Blue has a 28-3-2 mark in A-Sun games since the start of the 2010 season. All three of its conference losses have come on the road, and out of a possible 99 points that could have been earned in that time, the Eagles have claimed an impressive 86 of them.
FGCU will host Portland on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. before entertaining 2010 National Champion Akron at The Nest on Saturday, Sept. 6, also at 7 p.m.
For 2014 men’s soccer ticket information, visit the Alico Arena Ticket Office, call 239-590-7145 or log on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. For up-to-the minute information and a behind-the-scenes look at the program, follow on Twitter @FGCU_MSoccer and Instagram @FGCU_MSoccer.