Forward uses European strategy in men’s soccer offense

Senior Joonas Jokinen leads the team in shots through four games.

Senior midfielder and forward Joonas Jokinen catches his breath during a break in play during Saturday’s game against Rider University at the Temple Sports Complex. JAY NEEMEYER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

To learn more about senior forward and midfielder Joonas Jokinen, the first thing to do is ask him to pull up his right sleeve.

As he folds the sleeve of his shirt, more and more tattoos appear. He has at least 19 tattoos, according to his own count, of various sizes and significance, wrapping up and around his right arm.

One of his smallest tattoos sits near his inner elbow and can be easily overlooked. It is a group of five tally marks, signifying every place Jokinen has lived.

He was born in Finland, moved to England, then Switzerland, went back to England and then moved to Italy. His most recent tally is for the United States to represent his time at Temple, which began in 2014.

Last season Jokinen played with former forward Jorge Gomez Sanchez, who was Temple’s top scorer with 14 goals. Through four games, Jokinen leads the team in shots.

“I think a lot of times we sit down, and sort of feel helpless and wonder what we can do.”


“I have to fill the Jorge void this year, so I’ve been talking with the coaches, and we set a goal of 10 goals for the season,” Jokinen said. “But I kind of want to see if I can break that.”

“He has a high soccer IQ, so he understands things about the game,” coach David MacWilliams said. “He’s one of the best players that I’ve seen that makes proper runs off the ball.”

Jokinen and German junior midfielder Hermann Doerner each said American soccer is more physical and tends to rely on strength and fitness, while European soccer focuses more on strategy and thinking one step ahead of the play.

Jokinen tries to anticipate the action to get an edge on the opponent’s back line by making runs off the ball. But in his college career, Jokinen has found that talent, strategy and practice can only take him so far.

Jokinen has struggled with injuries throughout his career at Temple, and he has yet to play in every game during a season. Most recently, he has had trouble with his hamstring.

Last season, Jokinen played in 14 of 18 games due to injury, and in 2015 he appeared in just 13 of 19 games. Sometimes Jokinen is “too quick for his muscles,” MacWilliams said. Jokinen has started all four of Temple’s games this year, playing an average of 74.3 minutes per game.

Though Jokinen lived in Helsinki for just the first three or four years of his life, he made some of his best memories in Finland. He has a tattoo on his forearm of the outline of the country filled in with the blue and white cross pattern of the nation’s flag and the Finnish coat of arms near his bicep.

When Jokinen was 15 years old, he earned selection to the Finnish National Team. He became the top scorer in his age group. Jokinen still has his “completely shredded” cleats from that game, he said.

A tale of two halves
Joonas Jokinen finished the 2016 season second on the team in points but only had one point in his last seven games.

First seven games of 2016 Last seven games of 2016 First seven games of 2017
Goals 3 0 1
Assists 5 1 0
Points 11 1 2
Shots 22 15 13
Shots per game 3.1 2.1 4.3
Minutes 436 336 216
Minutes per game 62:18 48:00 72:00

Jokinen started playing soccer at 5 years old when he was in England. His friends invited him to play for a local team, and he began scoring “anywhere from five to 10 goals a game,” he said.

Seventeen years of experience and integrating his European style of play in the United States has helped Jokinen fine-tune his skills and score often.

Jokinen scored in Temple’s season-opening loss against Saint Joseph’s. Scoring is what keeps him passionate about playing. The feeling of scoring a goal is unlike anything else, he said.

“I mean you can’t not have a smile on your face,” Jokinen said. “It’s a team sport, obviously. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your team. And then looking around, seeing your whole team cheering with you, it just makes you so happy, and it’s pretty much the reason I play.”

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