Canadian roots bring Temple men’s soccer closer together

Temple University men’s soccer is building team chemistry through the recruitment process.

Xavier Rimpel, a freshman forward, runs down the field during the Owls’ match against Manhattan College at Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 4. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University men’s soccer has a special bond on the field, but the connection didn’t begin on North Broad.  

With the three new recruits from Canada joining the program this offseason, the Owls now have seven Canadian players on their roster, five of which are from Ontario. With similar club soccer experiences in high school and strong player IQ, these Owls have easily connected with each other on and off the field. 

Junior midfielder Jalen Campbell, a Second-Team All-AAC player in the 2020-2021 season, came to Temple in 2018 after head coach Brian Rowland recruited him. 

 “[Rowland] came out and told me exactly what he wanted, exactly how he envisioned my role on the team and that’s what grabbed my attention,” Campbell said.

Prior to committing to Temple, Campbell, a native of Brampton, Ontario, was looking into other NCAA schools. But Rowland personally reached out to him at the Disney Boys Soccer Showcase, and they connected on their first interaction.

The two had a conversation over the phone for Campbell to come see the facilities, and he felt confident on joining the program after his visit, Campbell said.

Since Campbell has joined the Owls, he won AAC Rookie of the Week in 2018 and tied for the team lead in goals in the 2020-21 season. 

The roots of the Owls’ Canadian takeover started when Rowland, a native of Toronto, Ontario, became the team’s head coach in Dec. 2017. Before him, the Owls had only one player from Canada in 2017. 

Rowland was the top associate coach at the University of Maryland from 2014-2017 under longtime Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski. Whether the players are from his home country or not, the process is all about relationships, he said.

“Try and recruit the same type of player, the same level of player that certainly has helped with our recruiting in Canada so a lot of the same contacts, a lot of the same places that we [Maryland] were recruiting before,” Rowland added.

The recruiting process is year-round and involves going to showcases throughout the United States and Canada, as well as watching video on the players, Rowland said.

Junior midfielder forward Andres Charles, native of Coquitlam, British Columbia, is a team captain this season and was named to the AAC All-Rookie team in 2018.

Campbell and Charles began to develop a relationship on and off the field once Charles joined the team, Campbell said.

“It was like an easy transition for me because we talk the same, we have a lot of the same slang here now with a lot of the new guys coming in too so it is just easy,” Campbell said. 

Campbell, freshman forward Xavier Rimpel, freshman forward Alex Marin, and freshman defender Chris Melino all played for the Vaughan Soccer Club, a developmental academy team, prior to joining the Owls. 

Coming here without knowing anyone was difficult for Rimpel. But hanging out with Campbell, Marin, and Melino, he was able to build a connection faster because of their Canadian background, Rimpel said. 

Marques Antoine (left), a sophomore defender, and Gyuwon Chong (right), a freshman forward, celebrate a goal during an Owls’ game against Manhattan College at Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 4. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Rimpel, a native of Ajax, Ontario, was unable to have direct contact with the team before committing this past year due to traveling restrictions. These restrictions did not allow in-person contact between coaches and players. Rimpel’s club coach communicated with Rowland and assistant coach Armante’ Marshall, he said. 

“When I was speaking with coach Rowland and coach Marshall about their ambition to go to the NCAA tournament really attracted me to come here,” Rimpel said.

Group chemistry is important in reaching the NCAA tournament, which is the team’s goal, Rimpel said.

Temple has a lot of faith in the culture being developed, said freshman forward Alex Marin. 

“They can see the product on the field,” Rowland said. “They can see the experience of some others and obviously see we are competing at a national level, so I think all of those things were vision at the beginning. We will still see where we are going next. We are not a complete version of where we want to be.”

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