If anything stood out about the men’s soccer team last season, it was its inability to score.
Behind an offense that only produced 15 goals in 18 matches, the Owls sputtered to a 13th place finish in the 14-team Atlantic Ten Conference with a 1-7-1 record last year.
As soon as the whistle blew on the 2007 campaign, the team was aware that its scoring woes were going to need to be addressed.
“We knew that from the start,” said sophomore forward Brian Henderson, the Owls’ top scorer with four goals last season. “There has to be more offensive production. It’s the first thing we talked about at the beginning of the preseason.”
They’ll most likely talk about it a little more after producing just one goal in their season-opening 3-1 loss to host Villanova on Aug. 29.
Junior forward J.T. Noone, one of the experienced players on a squad that essentially relied on freshmen last season, scored at the 80-minute mark of the contest, helping the Owls avoid a shutout.
“A lot of it is just the finishing part,” Noone said about the Owls’ scoring troubles. “We were able to create chances at times last year and we weren’t able to finish. A lot of it is just getting as many shots on goal as you can. If we can get that first goal early on in the season, that will do a lot to help get us over the hump.”
Temple hasn’t made the A-10 Tournament since 2004, when the team lost to George Washington in the championship match. The Owls also finished runner-up in the tournament in 2003.
Ninth-year coach David MacWilliams, who had to play freshmen in key positions last season, said this year’s group has gained experience and that he’s hoping it will help the squad this season.
“We have a lot more depth than we’ve had in the last two years,” MacWilliams said. “I think that’s going to be a big difference. I feel that I can start a number of different combinations this season when I didn’t have that luxury before. I feel like almost everyone on the roster has an opportunity to play, freshmen included.”
One of those freshmen, Upland, Calif., native Chris Velasquez, is one of the Owls’ forwards, along with Henderson and Noone, who dished out a team-high five assists last season.
Five to six players could see action as outside midfielders, including sophomore Kenechukwu Nwanah, junior Francois Sagna and sophomore Brian Weinhardt.
Juniors Matt Chevrollier and Mike Puppolo, sophomore Jared Harris and freshman Tyler Witmer could line up as defensive midfielders. They are among eight to 10 players who could start on defense, MacWilliams said.
Defense was one of the Owls’ strong points last season.
The team allowed 24 goals last year – good for a four-way tie for sixth place in the A-10. Temple also surrendered three or more goals in only three matches.
However, last season’s goalkeepers, Tony Pratico and Trevor Lyman, have graduated and redshirt sophomore Bryant Hosler and redshirt freshman Derek Long both suffered injuries in the offseason.
As a result, redshirt sophomore Bret Mollon, a mid-year transfer from Oakland, Calif., will front the net for the Owls.
“I know I have this spot for now, but I have to keep a mental edge and keep competing even though there is no competition right now,” Mollon said. “I have to be on top of my game, every minute of every game.”
Especially come October, when the Owls begin conference play with four consecutive road matches.
Although that stretch is followed by five straight home matches to end the regular season, MacWilliams said he isn’t a fan of the league’s scheduling.
“To start your first four or five conference games on the road is unfair. It’s frustrating,” he said. “I think we should do a better job with scheduling.
“When you have five road games in a row, you have to come away with results. That helps give you momentum going into those last four or five games,” he added. “If you don’t get results in those road games, you’re pushing.”
The Owls will get another chance to test their road acumen Friday against Lafayette in the Lafayette Classic, a three-game series which concludes with Temple’s first regular season home match versus Hofstra at the Ambler Soccer Complex on Sept. 13.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.