Temple soccer coach David MacWilliams realizes his team is extremely young, and a lack of scoring has been the cause of a 5-11 campaign that sees no end in sight.
He does find it encouraging that they’ve managed to stay in most of their games, with seven of their 10 defeats coming by one-goal deficits.
But if someone doesn’t step up soon offensively, the heartbreaking losses could erode the team’s confidence.
Over the last four losses, the Owls have failed to produce a goal, and their average goals per game has dipped down to less than one an outing.
Something must give.
“Right now we’re kind of snake bitten finding the net,” said McWilliams.
“I think if we had someone that could score consistently, I think we would be at the top of the A-10.”
As it stands, both Steven Wacker and Tony Donatelli lead the squad with three goals apiece.
MacWilliams says that some of the teams they are playing have two players with double-digit goals.
Due to ineptness at scoring and finding themselves against teams with stronger experience and talent, MacWilliams has relied on a defensive approach.
Though the wins have been few, the Owls have remained in almost every game, giving them a chance to eke out victory.
Depending on the opposition has depended on what sort of defensive scheme the Owls use.
If trying to contain a high-octane scoring team, MacWilliams drops them back into a 4-4-2.
Against Richmond, he went so far as to drop the team back to a 4-5-1 formation.
If he thinks the Owls can exploit a porous defense or weak goalkeeper, they align into a 3-5-2, and concentrate on getting the ball inside the box to produce as many opportunities as possible.
“If we had a little bit more ability to score goals then I think we would have to worry less about the other team,” MacWilliams said.
Due to their defensive strategy, the Owls continue to get out-shot, keeping goalie Patrick Hannigan quite busy.
Although the Owls have decreased the opposition’s shots throughout the season, they still are being out-shot 15-11 per game.
Moreover, constantly playing a defensive game also takes away from the efficacy of the offense.
Against Duquesne and Richmond, the conference’s top two teams, the Owls steady defense strategy kept both teams under wraps, despite losing both games 1-0.
Less reliance on the offensive sets creates fewer opportunities, but for this year it been the main reason the Owls have stayed competitive.
Within the conference the Owls are 2-1 against teams with weaker conference records.
In addition their last two conference games are against Xavier and Dayton, both who have worse records than the Owls.
If the Owls can muster out some wins in the last few games, the team’s momentum would greatly benefit.
But if the goal drought continues, it could leave the Owls with a stagnant taste in their mouths heading into next year.
“I think we’ve grown up real fast, we were kind of forced to,” said goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan.
He added that with such a young team they need confidence, and despite a lack of scoring he finds it encouraging on the opportunities they make, which in turn gives them more confidence.
As the Owls go through their growing pains, freshmen like Donatelli and Joe Brocker give MacWilliams hope that with some patience and maturation this team has a chance to be quite a threat in the near future.
“The guys are battling. They’re still playing hard every game, and working really hard and they haven’t quit and I think this is going to be a team in the next years to come,” MacWilliams said.
“This is going to be a be real good team.”
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com.