As the final seconds ticked away in the first overtime period , freshman midfielder Alberto Moreno threw his arms up in shock and began to frantically plead his case. It was to no avail, as he helplessly watched the referee raise his arm and hold up a shiny red card, ending Moreno’s night at the Temple Sports Complex.
With less than 10 seconds left in the first overtime against Memphis on Saturday, a flying elbow from Moreno in the 18-yard box earned him a penalty and put Temple down a man for the final overtime period. In Temple’s first conference game at home, the momentum swing and tactical advantage caused by the red card had the potential to be devastating for the Owls.
The team avoided collapsing, as the short-handed Owls locked down defensively in the second overtime period and finished the game in a scoreless draw. The draw was the team’s first of the year, giving the Owls a 0-1-1 record in American Athletic Conference play and a 6-3-1 record overall. Coach David MacWilliams was disappointed in the result but even more so in the lack of discipline that caused the late penalty.
“We talk about that before the game all the time,” MacWilliams said. “Don’t react. We put ourselves in a tough situation to play with 10 men in a conference game.”
The Temple players were despondent after the call. It was the team’s first red card of the year and results in a one game suspension for Moreno. Senior defender Stefan Mueller was right next to Moreno in the box at the time of the foul and was especially upset about the untimely play.
“We know we need to be disciplined on the field and we just can’t let that happen,” Mueller said. “We’re down a starter for the next game and we have to adjust now.”
The Owls also had to adjust for the final overtime period after the call. In a game where Temple had 26 shots but could not get on the scoreboard, the focus shifted from trying to score to trying to hold the tie while outnumbered on the field.
“We knew we couldn’t let up a goal after that,” Mueller said. “That was priority number one. You know, it gets in your head too that you’re playing a man down so everybody needs to step it up.”
The Owls held the Memphis attack scoreless in the last 10-minute overtime period, getting an important point from the draw. They also got a few good chances of their own, including a header that almost won the game with just more than three minutes left. Having all 11 players could have been the difference between a tie and a win.
“I’m really disappointed,” MacWilliams said. “We lost our composure and our discipline and that’s unacceptable.”
Graham Foley can be reached at email@example.com.