By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – The comeback Bulls scored a big win with a huge assist from the fans Friday night in their season opener.
Brenton Griffiths tied it up in the 64th minute and an alert Ben Sweat fired home the game winner less than a minute later in No. 5 USF’s 2-1 victory over Michigan before a regular season record crowd of 3,076 at Corbett Soccer Stadium.
“I give the credit to the crowd. When we tied the game up, the energy of the crowd injected into the team,” head coach George Kiefer said. “I just felt like the second one was coming. I thought it was coming quick and it did.”
USF certainly put the pressure on the Wolverines in the first half by outshooting them, 6-1, and keeping possession for the majority of the opening period. The Bulls were close to grabbing an early lead when Leston Paul hit the crossbar in the third minute and missed out on two more shots on goal by Kevin Olali and Sweat.
“I thought we created a lot of chances, especially early. I thought the goal was coming in the first five minutes of the match,” Kiefer said. “I feel like that aspect of the team is coming and it’s coming off a lot of good movements and players being smart. It’s not one player in particular creating everything; it’s a lot of different guys.”
Michigan was the first time to cash in on opportunities, however, when Dylan Mencia scored just 1 minute, 14 seconds into the second half.
“I thought they showed a lot of character to be down and get the game back,” Kiefer said.
USF’s rally started when Griffiths scored the equalizer off assists by Paul and Mario Mesen. The momentum shift proved to rattle the Wolverines, who were penalized and set Paul up with a penalty kick. The senior fired his shot to the right of the net, while Sweat followed the rebound off of Michigan keeper Adam Grinwis and found the back of the net.
“Sometimes you mess up, and the good thing about it is you have great teammates that are always there to help me. Congrats to Ben for helping me,” Paul said.
Kiefer will look for USF to create pressure throughout the entire 90 minutes of the team’s next two road games at the Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla. The Bulls face Southern Methodist on Friday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m. and take on Tulsa on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 8 p.m.
- USF’s previous regular season attendance record at Corbett Soccer Stadium was set last season when 1,498 fans attended the Bulls’ 3-0 win over Cincinnati on Oct. 26, 2011. “The more fans we have, the more energy we have. The guys play better,” Paul said.
- USF’s single-game attendance record at Corbett Soccer Stadium was set in the third round of last season’s NCAA tournament when the Bulls defeated New Mexico in penalty kicks on Nov. 27, 2011.
- Friday night’s game was televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel.