The USF men’s soccer team played their final home game of the season on Nov. 3 against the Santa Clara University Broncos at Negoesco Stadium. The evening was marked by Senior Night ceremonies, which honored seven graduating seniors: Andre Glasnovic, Tawwab Emiola, Sean Bowman, Santiago Digiuseppe, Jonathan Fabulich, Noah Leong and Jordan Hughes. After going down a goal early in the match, it was poetic that goals from two seniors led the Dons to victory en route to a 3-1 finish.
The Broncos started quick out of the gates, finding success attacking down the right flank early on using the speed of Miles Robinson to devastating effect. It was no surprise when their opening goal came in the fourth minute of play, starting on the right side of the field. Robinson played an incisive through ball into the feet of his teammate Alan Camacho Soto, who chipped his shot up and over the Dons’ on-rushing sophomore goalkeeper Ruben Stuiver. Camacho Soto’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced back into the field of play, where his fellow Bronco Javier Ruiz Duran was able to control and tap home the rebound for the opening goal of the match.
The swiftness of the first goal seemed to stun the Dons, as they were unable to control possession of the ball and struggled to string meaningful passes together for most of the first half. The home team made an important tactical change at halftime, moving the more offensive-minded freshman Cameron Martin from the wing into the midfield position of Hughes. Bowman came on for Hughes at halftime to fill the right wing position vacated by Martin’s move to midfield.
These switches paid off almost immediately when Digiuseppe equalized for the Dons five minutes into the second half. Digiuseppe played a short corner to freshman Ashish Chattha, who returned the ball to the senior midfielder. Digiuseppe took one touch to control the ball and another to skip past a Broncos’ defender before driving further into the opposition’s box. With a clear lane to unleash a firm shot into the bottom right corner of the Broncos’ net, Digiuseppe scored to restore parity to the match. This was his joint team-high fifth goal of the season for the Dons.
Bowman would put the Dons in front in the 60th minute of the match, showing great technical ability with his goal. Chattha was again involved in the buildup to a goal, playing a short pass to Bowman who received the ball on the right wing. The senior took a touch onto his left foot, moving past one defender before shifting the ball back onto his right foot, leaving a second defender in his wake and creating space for a shot along the ground, which nestled into the far corner of the Broncos’ net. The goal prompted a group hug around Bowman, who pointed and smiled at his family, who had traveled from Washington to see him play in his last collegiate home game.
Senior Night was capped by the Dons’ third goal of the evening, which saw Bowman score his second of the match and his joint team-leading fifth of the season. The Dons won a free kick on the right side of the opposition’s box, which Chattha stepped up to take. The freshman sent a looping ball into the box, which was nearly headed in by sophomore striker Sandro Bradara in the middle of the 6-yard box. Broncos midfielder Julian Bravo stuck his foot out to prevent Bowman, who was lurking at the far post, from tapping the loose ball in. In the process, Bravo miscontrolled the ball, allowing Bowman to slide in and tap the ball home from close range in the 74th minute.
Dons Head Coach Eddie Soto attributed his side’s slow start to the special occasion. “We came out flat, that happens when you do senior ceremonies and your warm up routine is different,” he said. “I put some pressure on at halftime with these guys and Santi and Sean, they stepped up big time.”
On scoring, Digiuseppe said, “Getting on the scoresheet is very important to me and I’ll remember it forever.” In regards to it being his final home game, he said, “It’s nice to leave the field with a good memory.”
Post-match, Bowman said, “To get the two goals and to get the win was huge for me, especially because my family is here.” He also reflected on it being his final home outing. “[This game was] definitely bittersweet because I’ll miss it out here, and I really do love this sport, and I love this team.”
With their WCC title hopes now officially over, after the St. Mary’s College Gaels defeated Gonzaga 1-0 on Nov. 4, the Dons’ focus will be on clinching the second place spot in the conference. Winning in this match was huge for the Dons, as it keeps their NCAA tournament hopes alive.
With one regular season match left to play, the Dons currently sit in third place in the WCC on 12 points, tied with the second place University of the Pacific. The Dons must hope that Pacific drops points in their last game, and they must win against the Loyola Marymount University Lions in their final regular season game on Nov. 10 in order to sneak into the second place spot and a possible NCAA tournament berth.