TAMPA, Fla. – The FGCU men’s soccer team kicks off its 2013 season in primetime Friday night exactly where its 2012 season ended: the University of South Florida.
The NCAA Tournament rematch from last year is set for 8 p.m., and it will air live for the country to see on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America website (NSCAATV.com).
The in-state rivals will be meeting for the fifth straight season, with FGCU looking to avenge two losses at USF last year, including a 5-3 defeat in penalty kicks in the First Round after playing the Bulls to a scoreless tie throughout regulation and two overtime periods.
USF – which will be playing its first-ever game as a member of the American Athletic Conference – owns a 4-1 edge in the all-time series. The Green and Blue’s lone win came in the 2010 season opener as they snapped the Bulls’ 30-game home unbeaten streak (26-0-4).
Dating back to the middle of last year, three of the Eagles past seven road games (including Friday’s opener) have been played at USF, including each of their last three non-conference matches. The Bulls, then ranked No. 13, claimed a 3-0 victory in FGCU’s regular-season non-conference finale last year on Sept. 25.
The only current Atlantic Sun Conference program to win back-to-back A-Sun postseason crowns, FGCU was tabbed as the preseason league favorite to win the 2013 title. The Eagles have won three straight regular-season championships, but have only been postseason eligible the past two years. FGCU finished last year with a 13-5-3 record, including a 6-1-1 mark in A-Sun action.
FGCU also secured three spots on the 12-man Preseason All-Conference squad with three sophomores adorning the list. Last year’s A-Sun Freshman of the Year, Felipe DeSousa (Tampa, Fla./Wharton HS), joined defender Aaron Guillen (El Paso, Texas/Coronado HS) and midfielder Rodrigo Saravia (Guatemala City, Guatemala/College Internacional Montessori).
DeSousa, who will be making a homecoming appearance, emerged as FGCU’s biggest offensive threat in his first season on the pitch, equaling a program single-season record with seven goals while leading the team with 15 points. Highlighting his seven goals over 15 games played, which ranked third in the A-Sun, were a league-leading and program record five game-winners. The sophomore begins the 2013 campaign already ranking in the top-10 on the program’s career points list, and was tabbed by TopDrawerSoccer.com as one of the top forwards in the nation.
USF finished the 2012 season with a Second Round NCAA Tournament loss to Tulsa, culminating the year with an 8-6-5 record. The Bulls return 15 letterwinners, but lost seven starters and welcome 12 newcomers. Meanwhile, FGCU finds itself in a similar situation as it returns 14 letterwinners, but lost five starters and inherits 12 newcomers, including nine freshmen. The Eagles do not have a senior on their 26-man roster.
Last year, FGCU’s defense was youthful as well, but proved integral in the team’s eight-game win streak entering its NCAA Tournament match, posting seven shutouts over that span and surrendering just three total goals. Junior keeper logged every minute in net last year, leading the A-Sun with nine shutouts and posting a .98 goals against average.
USF has been to the NCAA Tournament each of the past six years. Leading the way for the Bulls is junior midfielder Wesley Charpie and senior defender Ben Sweat. TopDrawerSoccer.com recognized Charpie and Sweat this preseason by naming both on their list of the nation’s top 100 players. The list includes the nation’s top sophomore, junior and senior players. While Sweat was ranked at No. 27, Charpie holds the No. 87 spot.
Friday’s match will be the first of three national broadcasts defending A-Sun Coach of the Year Bob Butehorn’s club will have. The second comes on the Pac-12 Network Sept. 20 at Washington, and the final one occurs Sept. 29 on ESPNU at Princeton.
Following their season opener at USF, the Eagles lift the lid on their home docket next Saturday, Sept. 7, under the lights of the FGCU Soccer Complex opposite FIU. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and will be one of just two home contests in the month of September.
2013-14 men’s soccer season tickets are now available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Season tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 3-12). Single-game tickets can also be purchased for $6 per adult and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of $3 per person. FGCU students and faculty/staff are admitted for free with a valid University ID.