After defeating the Florida Atlantic University Owls in the season opener on Friday, the Gators traveled to the west coast of the state to face the No. 18 ranked University of South Florida Bulls Sunday night.
The last time these teams met was in the NCAA tournament in 2017, when UF defeated the Bulls 1-0. This time around, the Gators again shut-out their opponent, winning 2-0 in a game where Canadian international Deanne Rose and senior goalkeeper Susi Espinoza shined.
🐊⚽️ keeps 🐊 athletics undefeated for the opening weekend of the new season!
— Gators Soccer (@GatorsSoccer) August 26, 2019
Last season, USF was undefeated at home (9-0-0) and began this season with two exhibiton wins before defeating Auburn in their season opener Thursday night.
After a Gator goal from a set piece was ruled offside in the early minutes, USF easily had the better attacking chances in the first half. Goalkeeper Susi Espinoza was regularly called into action, making a few impressive saves.
Through 45 minutes, South Florida outshot the Gators five to two. Unlike FAU in the season opener, the Bulls were content with UF having possession in the first half, but the Gators struggled to create any really good chances.
The second half opened with more Bulls opportunities, as forwards Sydny Nasello and Evelyne Viens were consistently getting into good positions and threatening the Gator goal, but Espinoza refused to be beaten.
Momentum shifted dramatically in the 52′ , when the Gators launched a quick counter-attack through Deanne Rose. She dribbled down the wing, drawing the attention of two Bulls defenders and the goalkeeper. Rose centered the ball to a wide open Kit Loferski, who made an intelligent run to the top of the six yard box and tapped the ball into a practically open net to put the Gators up 1-0.
The action continued in the 56th minute. When Viens failed to convert on a 2-on-1 chance for the Bulls, play shifted to the other side of the field when Rose again was put clean through and curled a shot past USF goalkeeper Katrina Haarmann. Despite having remarkably fewer shots, the Gators were up 2-0.
As the sun set the action picked up. It was all Bulls in the final thirty minutes of the game. Notably, around the 80th minute, a Nasello close-range effort was somehow blocked by a sliding UF defender after a mad scramble in the box, which kicked the ball back out to Nasello, whose follow up effort was saved by Espinoza.
In the end, USF outshot the Gators 20 to 4, but Florida goes home with the victory.
What’s Next for the Gators
The Gators continue their stretch of away games to begin the season in Los Angeles, California on Thursday against the University of Southern California. USC went 17-2-3 last year and are ranked No. 5 in the nation.