TAMPA -- With ESPNU cameras rolling, junior centerback Andrew "Peppa" Farrell scored the game's first goal and senior midfielder Ryan Smith the game winner as the red-clad Cardinals subdued the Bulls 2-1 on Wednesday night.
With the game tied 1-1 heading into the 82nd minute, Will Vitalis and Dylan Mares connected to find Ryan Smith inside the box, where he was promptly gang-tackled by multiple defenders and USF's keeper before he could fire off a clean shot. The ball squirted out of the scrum and before USF could regain its defensive composure, Smith pounced on it and scored on an empty net. It wasn't pretty but it was a fitting exclamation point to a chippy second half that featured six yellow cards in the final twenty minutes.
And the goal celebrations could really use some work, guys. Seriously, taking your shirt off is so 1998. Mix it up a little.
In the 17th minute, Paolo "Salt" DelPiccolo deflected Daniel Keller's corner kick towards the back post to a streaking Farrell, who headed the ball home off the bounce to put the Cards up 1-0. USF countered with the equalizer in the 34th minute when Roberto Alterio gathered a through ball inside the 18 yard box and found a crease between Louisville goalkeeper Mike Mauro and the near post.
The Cards were outshot 10-9 for the second straight match but made the most of their chances to come away with the victory and three points against a Big East Red Division opponent.
The win moves Louisville to 9-4-1 on the year and keeps them atop the Red Division by 3 points over Syracuse, which is important as the top two teams in each division get first-round byes and home field advantage in the Big East tournament. With the loss, USF (7-4-4) remains in 7th place in the division, just ahead of DePaul, who are still winless in conference play.
On the strength of a 6-1-1 tear in their last eight outings, Louisville moved up to 21st in the NSCAA Coaches Poll on Tuesday, its first appearance since September 4th, and 10th overall in the first RPI* release of the season on Monday. USF, once voted 2nd in the NSCAA Poll back in August, hasn't been ranked since October 2nd. The Bulls were rated 27th in the first RPI release this Monday.
*As with college basketball, the NCAA relies heavily on the RPI in soccer when determining seeding for the end-of-year tournament, therefore finishing in the top ten is vital to securing home field advantage through the quarterfinals. Especially since Louisville is 7-1-1 at home this year and just 2-3 on the road.
It's a great time to be a Louisville soccer fan. Ken Lolla gonna Ken Lolla.