In the 31st minute of Temple’s game against Rider University on Sept. 3, sophomore forward Thibault Candia’s shot was blocked.
About five minutes later, sophomore midfielder Nick Sarver sent off a crisp, hard shot that went just over the net.
Shots from Candia and senior forward and midfielder Joonas Jokinen followed that play, but neither found twine. The night continued like this until the Owls lost, 1-0, in overtime.
Temple’s loss to Rider was the second of its four defeats this season. Temple lost via a shutout for the third game in a row on Saturday against Fairfield University. The Owls are 1-4-1 and haven’t won a game since Aug. 29 against Villanova.
Despite creating opportunities, the Owls have struggled to score this season, tallying just three goals in six games.
“We are outshooting teams, so we just got to find a way to get one or two of those in,” coach David MacWilliams said. “I think right now the guys are pressing a little bit more because they know we need to score.”
Through the first six games, Jokinen and redshirt-senior defender Mark Grasela are the team’s only goal-scorers. Two of the team’s three goals derived from a penalty-kick opportunity. Jokinen scored the first of his two goals this season on a penalty kick in the team’s season opener against St. Joseph’s. Villanova’s goalkeeper stopped Grasela’s initial shot on a penalty kick, but he knocked home the rebound to score the only goal in Temple’s win.
Three goals do not seem like much, especially compared to last season. In the first six games, the Owls had scored 12 goals.
“We haven’t been scoring that much and that’s one of the reasons why we are not winning as many games as we thought,” sophomore midfielder Albert Moreno said. “So I think that we have to improve in this aspect of the game.”
Temple has outshot its opponents in every game except Saturday, but the Owls have not put up similar numbers to last season.
Temple has recorded 74 shots. Last season through the same number of games, the Owls registered 105 shots, averaging 17.5 attempts per game.
“It definitely is frustrating because we sometimes have a lot of chances, but we can’t score,” Moreno said. “But we think that we have to keep trying and try to get them on target.”
Temple’s scoring struggles stem, in part, from the loss of forward Jorge Gomez Sanchez. He scored 14 goals in his senior season in 2016 and recorded three assists. Gomez Sanchez scored 60.9 percent of Temple’s goals last year.
MacWilliams hopes Jokinen will help fill the scoring void Gomez Sanchez left when he graduated. Jokinen finished second on the team in scoring last year behind Gomez Sanchez with three goals and six assists. MacWilliams also envisions Candia, Moreno and junior midfielder and forward Jordan Wix Rauch as potential scorers. The three players have combined for nine points in their careers.
“I always knew how important Jorge was,” MacWilliams said. “When he’s involved in 75 percent of your scoring, that’s an awful lot. Now we’ve got to find other guys who are able to do that. Not one guy is going to do it like Jorge, but we’ve got to find a number of guys to score.”
“We’re mixing the lineup, we’re trying to find the right combinations and trying to see what can give us more opportunities to score,” MacWilliams added.
The Owls have also worked to improve their passing, particularly in the offensive third of the field. With more accurate passing in Temple’s offensive zone, the Owls have a better chance of setting up an opportunity for a shot on goal, MacWilliams said.
Part of improving movement and passing in front of the net is knowing the tendencies of who is on the field, Candia said.
For Candia, who has the second-most shots on the team with 12, figuring out these patterns in his first year at Temple after moving from France has been difficult.
“I think we need to improve our chemistry with players because I just knew the guys [for] one month, so I need to improve the chemistry to know their placements, their runs on the field,” Candia said. “With a good integration, hopefully, I’m going to score some goals and some assists to help the team.”