TAMPA — Last season, when USF's men's soccer team won the Big East championship and made it to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, midfielder Bernardo Anor had to watch from the sideline, unable to play because of a torn ACL.
"I thought everything was over for me," said Anor, who suffered the knee injury in the seventh match and faced an eight-month rehabilitation after surgery.
Today, the sophomore midfielder from Venezuela is back with the Bulls, having made recovered and then some. Anor (pronounced an-YOUR) leads a balanced offensive attack with four goals and an assist and has been a big part of USF's 7-2-1 start, which has the Bulls ranked in the top five nationally in all the major polls.
"It's nice having him back. Bernardo certainly adds a lot to our attack," Bulls coach George Kiefer said Thursday as he prepared for Saturday's home match against St. John's, which reached the Final Four last season.
Anor, 21, is one of four Venezuelans on USF's roster, having followed a childhood friend, senior midfielder Francisco Aristeguieta, from Caracas to Tampa. Anor's father, Bernardo, played professionally in Venezuela and was part of its national team in the 1980 Olympics and for World Cup qualifiers in 1986 and 1990.
"I've heard he was amazing," said Anor, who attended his father's matches when he was young and now looks forward to his father seeing him play.
Twice Anor has had relatives from Venezuela come to watch him play for USF. The first time, during his freshman year, he had earned a red card in the previous match and wasn't able to play in the match they attended. Last season he tore his ACL when his mother was in attendance. Both parents are due in Tampa for an Oct. 21 game against Dartmouth.
Kiefer said Anor, 21, has an excellent touch and a natural deceptiveness on the field, something he often sees in South American players. Anor is as dangerous with his head as he is his feet, having scored two goals off headers this season.
"With the top players, it's all about the first touch, and you see how quick (Anor's) brain is at playing this game," Kiefer said.
One of USF's strengths is its depth. After Anor, the team's other eight goals have been scored by eight players, and nine have at least one assist.
"We have the talent and a lot of good players. Absolutely, we can be much better," Anor said. "We want to get to the Final Four. That's the next step."