Senior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez said his on-field connection with junior forward and midfielder Joonas Jokinen is genetic.
The two have combined for 12 of the team’s 16 goals so far this season. Jokinen and Gomez Sanchez’s chemistry on the front line has resulted in at least one goal for the Owls (5-3, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) in six of their eight games.
“They’re getting a better understanding all the time,” coach David MacWilliams said. “They read one another well, they know what each one’s tendencies are, and they know what their strengths are. They’ve been very good together.”
Gomez Sanchez has the most points on the team, with nine goals and three assists through eight games. His 1.13 goals per game is second in Division I. Gomez Sanchez is also second in Division I in total goals and points per game.
“It feels good, but it doesn’t mean anything if you start in conference and you stop scoring,” Gomez Sanchez said. “So I think you need to keep it up to be in the top scoring group.”
Jokinen ranks in the Top 10 for most assists. He has recorded five assists and three goals.
Even though Gomez Sanchez and Jokinen score a majority of the goals, they attribute their success to the work of their teammates.
“I think it feels great, but I think all the team has to feel the same feeling,” Gomez Sanchez said. “We play as a team, and I think that feeling of scoring has to be translated to all the teammates.”
The set-up starts as soon as the Owls get the ball. Senior defenders Matt Mahoney and Stefan Mueller, playing as Temple’s two main outside backs, use their speed to get up and down the sideline quickly to create a numerical advantage for the Owls on offense and put pressure on the opponent’s defense.
“I think in all, our offense is not just Jorge and Joonas,” MacWilliams said. “It’s a combination of the way we play, the way we get our outside backs going forward. We get a lot of guys in motion that create those scenes and opportunities for Jorge and Joonas, and they’ve done a great job of finishing and finding one another.”
The Owls are now preparing to enter American Athletic Conference play. Their conference opener against Connecticut resulted in a 1-0 loss. Last season, after a record-breaking start, Temple crumbled when it reached conference play, finishing with a 2-6 regular season record in The American.
When the Owls hit conference play last year, they had scored 18 goals in eight games. In their nine games against teams in The American, they scored 10 times.
Despite the scoring deficiency in the second half of last season, MacWilliams is optimistic about his team and his athletes’ abilities to continue scoring.
“I think we’re a little bit more mature,” MacWilliams said. “We added some pieces. We added [freshman midfielder Albert Moreno], who I think can help us offensively, and again, I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, and we feel that we can go against any team in the country and score goals.”
The team will rely on Moreno and senior midfielder Kevin Klett to help out on offense. Klett has scored once and Moreno has an assist. The other Owls that have scored this season are freshman forward George McGee, sophomore midfielder Hermann Doerner and senior defender Carlos Moros Gracia.
“I think a big part of conference play is being able to get opportunities on set pieces,” MacWilliams said. “We look for a guy like Carlos or [redshirt-junior defender Mark Grasela] to get on the end of things in the set pieces.”
While some of the goal-scoring chances can be practiced, a lot of the goals scored come from quick thinking during game time. This skill is something Jokinen and Gomez Sanchez have developed in their two seasons together.
“It’s difficult to really practice finishing,” Jokinen said. “You can’t really practice the situations that are going to come about in a game, so you’ve just got to get in as many reps as possible to try and emulate different scenarios and just practice finishing from different areas.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.