If you’re a soccer fan, this is the best time of the year. European club leagues are just getting underway, our American domestic league is heading towards playoffs, and the NCAA soccer season is kicking off. The beautiful game’s cup overfloweth.
The setting for USF soccer is unparalleled — if you have never sat in the bleachers at Negoesco, you’re missing out on a student’s rite of passage. The light and dark green striations of the pitch, St. Ignatius and Fromm Hall peeking out above the Monterey pines, and that prideful logo staring at you from midfield, all make for an idyllic experience. Not to mention, the fog slowly rolling in is as San Francisco as it gets.
And let’s not forget about the six national championship banners.
This past Saturday, our men’s soccer team faced our crosstown rival: the San Francisco State University Gators. The match was scheduled as the only exhibition game leading into the Dons’ regular season, which begins Aug. 30 at Seattle University. In fact, the team’s first three matches will be held on the road against the Seattle University Redhawks, the Pac-12’s University of Washington Huskies, and the Matadors of California State University, Northridge.
As the game commenced, the first thing I noticed was all of the new faces. The new additions 2019 team features two transfers and nine incoming freshmen, along with two new assistant coaches, Javier Ayala-Hil and Sam Reynolds. The most-anticipated transition is the addition of former Major League Soccer professional, NCAA All-American honoree, and NCAA champion, Leonard Griffin, as head coach.
Upon the first whistle blow, the Dons were energized and determined to claim their first victory of the season. Throughout the entire first half, it was an even match, seeing shots from sophomore Cameron Martin and junior Sam Higgins contained by the opposition. Both teams were working hard to gain an edge in the competition, resulting in a 0-0 tie going into the second half.
The crowd was exuberant with school spirit and in full support of their squad. The Dons rewarded them with their first goal in the 71st minute — a left-footed shot into the lower-left corner by senior forward Jorge Ruiz. The scoring didn’t stop there. With only four minutes to go in the match, Ruiz assisted to senior midfielder Marcus Simmons, who completed the goal. This concluded the opener with a 2-0 final score against the Gators.
The crowd was exuberant with school spirit and in full support of their squad.
Coach Griffin was enthusiastic about getting his first match under his belt. “We’ll just keep building on what we’ve been working on all pre-season, on both sides of the ball,” Griffin said. “I like the totality of the group, and I think we have some depth, which is very, very good.”
“It’s always great to play at home,” he said. “It was a great turnout today. It really felt like a true match and felt real.”
The men’s regular-season home opener is Thursday, Sept. 12 against the San Jose State University Spartans.