As the word “press” reverberated around the Temple Sports Complex, Temple players flooded forward to put University of Delaware’s defense and goalkeeper under intense pressure.
The Owls (9-5-1, 1-2-1 The American) made sure Delaware’s players rarely had time on the ball to create any kind of attacking rhythm. The lack of rhythm for the opposition was key in Temple’s 2-1 win Tuesday, as the Owls held a Delaware team that averages 14.1 shots per game to just six attempts.
“Yeah, they’re a team that if you allow them a rhythm they’re a very good possession team,” Coach David MacWilliams said. “We just had to make sure they didn’t get a rhythm and I thought we did a pretty good job of stepping high, pressing, and denying that rhythm.”
The Owls went out with an intent to pressure Delaware from the opening whistle. Within the first five minutes they forced Blue Hens sophomore goalkeeper Todd Morton into two rushed clearances. This pressure of the opposition’s defense and goalkeeper made it difficult for them to get their rhythm and build attacks against the Owls
“Yeah, again we want to mix up our pressure at times, but at times when we have it we can step up as a group,” MacWillaims said.
The Owls kept the defensive pressure going all throughout the game. Near the end of the first half, Temple’s pressure forced Morton into a clearance that went off the field and over the stands toward Broad Street.
“If you can pinch in balls and stop it, you do two things, you deny them from having a rhythm, and you’re able to pinch balls maybe quick and get an opportunity on offense, if you do it correctly,” MacWilliams said.
The offensive benefits of the Owls’ press were evident on their first goal. They won the ball in Delaware’s half, quickly got the ball to freshman midfielder Albert Moreno, and he crossed for senior forward Jorge Gomez Sanchez to tap in his 13th goal of the season.
The Owls’ pressure helped them get into lots of good positions to take shots, as they outshot Delaware 18-6 and had nine shots on target, compared to three for their opponents.
“I think we were just playing our style,” freshman forward Lukas Fernandez said. “Me and Jorge up top just like to get shots off.”
Fernandez, making his first start for Temple, got involved in the defensive work, despite being a forward, and was a big part of the press when he was on the field.
Fernandez characterized the Owls willingness to press the entire game when he won the ball off a Delaware defender in the last minute of the game and was denied his first Temple goal by inches, as his shot rattled off the post.
Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org