Sports

Kicking the offensive blues

“There is no ‘I’ in team.” It’s been said before, but the men’s soccer team has discovered that putting that motto into effect is harder than it sounds. Coming off a 3-2 road loss to Lafayette last week, the Owls (1-6-1) look to improve the team dynamic in hopes that a solid team effort will… Read more »

“There is no ‘I’ in team.”

It’s been said before, but the men’s soccer team has discovered that putting that motto into effect is harder than it sounds. Coming off a 3-2 road loss to Lafayette last week, the Owls (1-6-1) look to improve the team dynamic in hopes that a solid team effort will help them kick an offensive funk that has carried over from last season.

The Owls have been shut out five times in eight games this season. Last year, they scored just six goals and failed to qualify for the six team Atlantic Ten Conference tournament after advancing to the conference championship game in 2003 and 2004. Not only are they handicapped by that memory, but the team will need to mesh, players said, and soon – their A-10 schedule begins Friday against Charlotte at Ambler Sports Complex.The Owls, who returned just eight letter winners and lost three key starters from 2005, have struggled to adjust to coach David
MacWilliams’ style while fielding 18 newcomers.

Despite the new faces, a losing record and a grueling schedule ahead, the Owls are confident in their ability to play with top
teams.

“We have a tough schedule coming
up,” senior defender Matt Maher said. “But
we’ve shown that we can play with [the best
teams].”

The proof is on the field. Temple took
South Carolina, a team ranked No. 21 in the
nation, down to the 82d minute of regulation before the Gamecocks booted the deciding goal for a 1-0 victory.

“That game could have gone either way,” senior defender Chris Shelton
said.

“We played out to the end.” The Owls
were outshot by the Gamecocks, 18-6, but
the game was not sealed until South Carolina freshmen Jeff Scannella scored
the winning goal.

“It helps our confidence to know that we can play with those guys,” Maher said, “[but] our record just doesn’t show it.”
S h e l t o n agrees. He and Maher are being counted on to provide leadership
to the young squad.

“It’s hard to put up big numbers when
half the line-up is either a freshmen or a
transfer,” Shelton said. “We’ve just got to
work on playing as a unit.”

MacWilliams has stressed that kind of
teamwork in practice, Maher said.

“Coach always tells us in practice, that
when the head of a dog moves, the tail has
to follow,” Maher said. “We have to work on
remembering that in game situations.”

Not only will the Owls have to work on
field positioning as a unit, but offense is another problem area.

The Owls have scored just six goals in
eight games.

“We need to practice, all-around,” Shelton
said. “We’ve got to work on our intensity,
as well.”

Shelton’s sentiment is one that seems
to resonate among the other players. As Maher explained, once the Owls get into a hole, it’s hard to climb out.

“The momentum changes when you’re
trying to catch up,” he said. “It’s tough to get back into it.”

Temple will need to find a way to keep
opposing teams from stealing its
momentum.

The Owls have allowed 15 goals on 103 attempts this season whereas opponents have
held Temple to six goals on 86 attempts.
Maher said those statistics may be due to
frequent mistakes that can be corrected.

“When we make a mistake, it takes us out
of the game and that causes a
chain reaction,” Maher said.
By minimizing the simple mistakes, Shelton
said, the Owls should improve their field formation and scoring abilities.

“Coach has been stressing a lot of tactical
things, like where we need to be on the
field,” he said.

Both he and Maher agree that the
team’s focus beyond fundamentals is finishing so that they can improve their attempt to goal ratio.

Temple will also try to stop teams defensively in order to limit the opportunities they give opponents.

Danielle Milner can be reached at
danielle.milner@temple.edu.

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