This fall, David MacWilliams has had to keep his options open.
The men’s soccer coach has sent out six different starting lineups through nine matches this fall, and has used all but six players on his 30-man roster.
It’s a big difference from last season, when he used just three starting lineups and 22 men out of a 27-man roster in the same amount of matches.
MacWilliams said that unlike last year, he hasn’t had much of a choice when deciding on his lineups and substitutions throughout the opening month of the season.
“We’ve been forced to use different combinations,” MacWilliams said. “Last year, I put out the same lineup most of the time, and most good teams when they’re playing well do that. … When you’re not playing well, you try to find the answers and try to mix it up to find the right balance and chemistry … so that’s why we’ve been using a lot of people.”
MacWilliams added that depth is one of the key reasons he has been able to try varying lineups and substitutions, but also said injuries have hurt his squad, especially in the past couple of matches.
Players who have missed time due to leg injuries include freshmen forwards Joonas Jokinen and Olli Tynkkynen, both of whom were recruited to provide the offensive spark Temple has lacked throughout much of the fall.
Freshman midfielder Felipe Liborio, who started all eight match-ups he participated in, has also missed a game.
When players miss time and the Owls struggle to win games, MacWilliams has looked to numerous options to fill various holes. Two members of MacWilliams’ squad have seen a considerable bump in playing time from last year – sophomore attacking midfielder Dan White and junior defending midfielder Josh Tagland.
White, who appeared in four matches last fall, has seen action in seven thus far this season, starting in two of them. He’s also played 241 minutes this season, a considerable jump from the 36 he tallied in all of 2013.
The product out of Wilmington, Delaware said a lot of what goes into making an impact at his position, especially when coming off the bench, is having the right mindset.
“It’s a mental thing,” White said. “When you come off the bench, you have to be ready to go, whenever [MacWilliams] calls on you.”
Tagland appeared in two match-ups last season, accumulating 16 minutes of play. This year, he’s already played in seven games, starting one and racking up 300 minutes of gametime.
The Norristown native said although he’s seen more time, the transition isn’t something he really thinks about.
“It’s not really a big transition at all,” Tagland said. “You still have to come to practice every day, still have to work hard, and that’s what coach [MacWilliams] preaches. ‘You work hard, you play.’”
As a defensive midfielder, Tagland’s primary responsibilities include keeping possession and defending at a high level. Although it’s a tough job to jump in to, he said it’s something everyone at his position just has to do.
In fact, it’s something Tagland said the American Athletic Conference requires his position to accomplish, if his team is to have success when he plays.
“Different teams are different levels of play,” Tagland said. “In our conference, you just have to get sucked into a tackle, and you’re right back in there.”
Tagland added that intensity is needed for everyone who comes off the bench to play midfield.
But even with all the variation and changes MacWilliams has made so far this season, some of his players have fit well into the system he’s trying to develop. Sophomore defenders Robert Sagel and Matt Mahoney have started every match this fall, while Chalfant and senior goalie Dan Scheck have missed two games and one game, respectively.
MacWilliams said the reason he keeps sending these individuals out onto the field is a combination of their hard work and skills. Without a “blue-collar” work ethic, he feels talent can easily be wasted.
“You can have as much talent as you want,” MacWilliams said. “But if you don’t work at it, and don’t bring it every day, you’re not going to get the same results. I think those guys bring it every day.”
Steve Bohnel firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @SteveSportsGuy1