Since being hired in December, Brian Rowland has been working on his vision for next season.
Rowland wants Temple to be a destination for quality players in Philadelphia and utilize the talent entering the program to help it become successful at a higher level.
“We want to be a commodity, a well-known program, being very successful on and off the field,” Rowland said. “And we would like to be sort of a brand, something people know about and are excited to watch.”
In order for these goals to be achieved, Rowland must first make the program competitive within the American Athletic Conference. He said the process will take time.
Last season, the Owls finished with a 9-8-1 record and lost in the first round of the conference tournament. Temple has yet to make it out of the first round of the conference tournament since joining The American.
Rowland will have to replace several key players who are graduating. Temple will lose seven players, including two members of the back line, Brendon Creed and Mark Grasela. They also won’t have former midfielder Divin Fula Luzolo, who earned first-team all-conference honors and contributed on defense.
Though Creed dealt with an injury during the season, he still played in 12 of the Owls’ 18 games. Meanwhile, Grasela and Fula Luzolo started every game, and each played more than 1,500 minutes. They each ranked in the top three in minutes played on the team.
“I would say we’ve looked at strengthening the group in all areas, but certainly we’re aware that a lot of players in the back have moved on, and that’s an area of improvement that we can see,” Rowland said.
Another graduating starter is former forward Joonas Jokinen, who was Temple’s third-leading scorer with four goals. Grasela ranked fourth with three goals and Fula Luzolo tied for fifth with two.
Rowland has already started to find recruits who may be able to fill some gaps. Temple has two incoming freshmen — Virak Nhek and Santiago Majewski — committed to play for the team next season, according to Top Drawer Soccer.
Majewski is a midfielder from Torrey Pines High School in San Diego. He helped the Falcons start their season 10-0 and win a Southern California tournament.
Majewski said he visited Temple within the past few weeks, and the coaches told him they want the Owls to play possession-type soccer, which his club team uses.
“[Senior midfielder] Hermann Doerner is one of the players I’m very excited to play with,” Majewski said. “He seems like he’s very good on the ball and barely loses it.”
Nhek is a left back and center back from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was attracted to Temple because of the city and coaching staff.
“Temple’s outstanding academics and great athletic programs really speak for themselves,” Nhek said. “I was convinced that under the guidance of the coaches and staff, I would be able to succeed both on and off the field.”
Nhek, who has been playing soccer since age 6, plays for the PA Classics Academy, a club based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His coach, Steve Klein, helped him connect with Rowland and his assistant coaches Brian Grazier and Armante’ Marshall.
Rowland said he is impressed by Grazier and Marshall’s scouting ability.
“I think both were very capable to come in right away and lend their experience in all areas, and both are very strong recruiters, which is something that set them apart,” Rowland said. “It was for making sure that we can start to really be a well-known group that recruits really well.”
In order to attract top talent, the coaching staff must be able to sell the team and school to recruits. Because he is new to Temple, Rowland is still learning about the university.
But he could immediately pitch the team to recruits by talking about his vision for the program and highlighting the competition that comes from playing in the American Athletic Conference, he said. Three teams from the league finished the 2017 season in the top 60 of the Ratings Percentage Index.
The new coaching staff hopes to continue pushing Rowland’s agenda. But it understands the constraints that come with the initial transition, like catching up to other programs in recruiting and having players adapt to a different style of play.
Still, Rowland is optimistic about next season and the players who will join the program.
“That’s our goal, to bring all that energy and excitement around this program and recruit really quality people,” Rowland said. “We’re really excited about some of the pieces that we’ve put into place and the direction that we’re headed, and we’re definitely looking forward to continue to grow the program.”
Evan Easterling contributed reporting.