Joonas Jokinen is a YouTube sensation, but doesn’t understand why.
The men’s soccer freshman midfielder/forward said he has no idea why his backflip penalty kick has gotten millions of views. In fact, he wasn’t even planning on uploading the video in the first place.
“We were losing in our game 4-0, so my coach yelled, ‘Give it a go!” Jokinen said. “One of my friends wanted to see it, and I tried to send it as an email, but it was too big of a document, so he said to put it on YouTube.”
Jokinen, a native of Helsinki, Finland, is part of a recruiting class of 13 freshmen that includes another member from Finland, and one player apiece from South Africa and Trinidad. The rest come from across the United States, from California to right here in Philadelphia. Coach David MacWilliams says it’s fitting given the identity of the university he coaches.
“We kind of replicate what Temple University is really about,” coach Dave MacWilliams said. “Temple is one of the most diverse schools in the country, and [our team] is very similar right now.”
Jokinen’s fellow countryman, Olli Tynkkynen, is another recruit that looks to make an impact this fall for Temple.
The Lahti, Finald native isn’t off to a bad start, though, as he netted a pair of goals in the Owls’ 3-2 defeat of Sacramento State Sunday. He has started both of Temple’s games at the forward position thus far this season.
Both have played for the Finland U-19 national squad, and look to add the offensive spark that Temple, No. 128 in Division I in goals per game last year with 1.17, needs this season.
“Both of them can score goals,” MacWilliams said. “Last year we were a team that was very good defensively, and in order to get to the next level, you have to score a little more goals.”
Tynkkynen showed off that talent in the first scrimmage against Lafayette, netting a shot from right outside the penalty box. But he feels a lot of his skill set comes from his mental picture of the game.
“I think I bring a lot of intelligence,” Tynkkynen said. “How to move, how to find the spaces [in the defense], because it is a different [game] over here.”
Temple’s other Finnish player, Jokinen, scored his famous penalty in 2011 for his youth club, FC Baar. He has backed up that video with his play on the field, leading his age group in scoring at the national level, and tallying 34 goals and 17 assists for his high school, the ACS Cobham International School in Surrey, England.
However, in order to adapt to the American college game, Jokinen said he needs to prepare his body for the beating the new style of play presents.
“[I need to] become more of a physical player,” Jokinen said. “From the games and training I’ve seen, it’s physical, it’s big guys, it’s rough.”
Like his Finnish teammates, freshman midfielder Dinho Zwane is from the eastern hemisphere, as he hails from Johannesburg, South Africa. Aside the physical style of play, he sees another difference between the game in his home country and the United States.
“The game [in South Africa] is so much faster and more entertaining,” Zwane said. “Here, it’s more hard work.”
Standing at 5-foot-5-inches, Zwane said he relies on his speed to beat defenders one-on-one. He played for the Trinity High School boys soccer team in Louisville, Kentucky, the No. 29-ranked soccer team in the nation, according to Maxpreps.com.
But, Zwane said experience with a particular club in the United States’ soccer system is what prepared him for the sport at the college level.
“[Trinity] helped prepare me school-wise but I had a club team [in Louisville] called the River City Rovers,” Zwane said. “They prepared me.”
The Rovers play in the USL Premier Developmental League, which is the fourth tier in the American soccer system. The league has spawned players such as current national team members Geoff Cameron and Brad Guzan.
With the majority of the roster made up of underclassmen, MacWilliams’ starting lineup may be young.
“We have potentially three or four freshmen who are going to start,” MacWilliams said. “And it could be more, and you could see others get a lot of time. It’s definitely impacted our team, not only this year, but in years to come.”
You can reach Steve Bohnel at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @SteveSportsGuy1