Whatever men’s soccer coach David MacWilliams said at halftime worked Saturday.
Temple was trailing La Salle by a pair of goals at the break, due to two early strikes from Explorer midfielders Matt Robinson and Joe Farrell. When the Owls gathered outside the southwestern end of McCarthy Stadium, MacWilliams had some not-so-kind words for his team.
“You don’t want to record what he said at halftime,” assistant coach Brian Clarhaut said.
In any case, Temple came out firing in the second half, with redshirt freshman midfielder Miguel Polley tallying his first goal of the season around two minutes after the intermission.
Redshirt senior forward Chas Wilson assisted on the play, dumping the ball off from the middle of the eighteen-yard line, finding a cutting Polley on his left. The Detroit, Michigan native proceeded to beat La Salle goalie Mike Kirk in the lower right-hand corner.
“As it was coming in [to me], Miguel called for it,” Wilson said. “Thank goodness, because I didn’t really see him. So I used my directional sense, and I laid it off right to him.”
The goal was a huge momentum shift, as Temple proceeded to outshoot La Salle by a tally of 20-7 after the first half had concluded. After two 10-minute overtime periods, the game finished in a 2-2 draw.
MacWilliams’ philosophy of not giving up goals in the first and last 10 minutes of each half proved to be true again Saturday. The Owls allowed a goal from Robinson in the first minute of the match, a play that led to an opening half dominated by the Explorers, who found themselves controlling the ball in Temple’s half for most of the opening 45 minutes.
“The first half was probably the worst half I’ve seen us play in six or seven years,” MacWilliams said. “It wasn’t very good.”
Coming out with a fighting mentality has been an issue for Temple early this season, as teams have found it easy to break down the Owls’ defense quickly from the opening whistle.
Defender Jonah Williams said the problem against La Salle specifically was a lack of communication and marking in the penalty box, things that will “kill you” in soccer.
He added that although they were able to salvage a draw, Temple should be looking to beat teams of this caliber.
“We should be beating these kind of teams,” Williams said. “We had to just grind it out. A tie really isn’t good enough, but it’s better than a loss to this team.”
Temple would have lost had it not been for a goal from forward Jared Martinelli with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation. Polley crossed a ball in from the right-hand side, and it deflected off a La Salle defender before finding Martinelli, who drove the ball by Kirk into the mid-upper section of the net.
It was a microcosm of the match that Polley had played up to that point. Besides recording a goal and an assist, the redshirt freshman was able to hold the ball in possession and played well defensively, having an impact all over the field.
“He came in and helped change the game,” MacWilliams said of Polley. “I thought he played very well for us today.”
A notable change in MacWilliams’ initial game plan was starting redshirt freshman Mark Grasela at the left back position, and moving defender Matt Mahoney up to play a defensive midfielder role.
The 15-year coach said that the change was because of multiple factors.
“We were trying to mix things up,” MacWilliams said. “Mark came in and did a pretty good job in the Duke game, so we figured we’d start it that way and get forward a little bit more from our central midfield.”
Ultimately, the strategy didn’t pan out, as La Salle jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 14 minutes. MacWilliams moved Mahoney back to his traditional left back spot at the start of the second half, which tightened Temple up defensively.
Next up, Temple travels to the Bronx to face Fordham at 4 p.m. Wednesday. In order for the Owls to get back in the win column, MacWilliams said his squad needs to return to what led to a 10-win season last year.
“We’re giving up too many soft goals,” MacWilliams said. “That’s an issue for me. We have to take care of that before we take care of anything.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.