The offensive woes continued for the Temple men’s soccer team this week as the Owls suffered two heart-wrenching 1-0 overtime losses to Atlantic 10 rivals Rhode Island and UMass this past Friday and Sunday at Temple Stadium.
While the Owls’ defense held what are arguably the two best teams in the A-10 scoreless for over 90 minutes of play in each game, it was once again the team’s inability to score that cost Temple a chance to knock off the nationally-ranked Rams on Friday and the talented Minutemen on Sunday.
“I think we’ve lost five games by one goal this season,” Temple head coach David MacWilliams said. “If we were able to net some of our opportunities to score goals, we could be close to .500 on the season.
“It’s our inability to score that is still hurting us. Usually there is one player that scores five to 10 goals for your team over a season, but we don’t have that. We don’t have a true goal scorer.”
Having lost seven straight games, the underdog Owls did not appear to be in a position to pose much of a threat to either No. 18 URI (9-3-1, 4-0 in A-10) or UMass (7-3-2, 3-0-1 in A-10) coming into the two weekend match ups. The Owls, however, proved to be a formidable opponent in both games.
Behind a pair of all-around solid defensive performances, Temple was able to hold both the Rams and Minutemen scoreless throughout all of regulation.
Unfortunately for the Owls, they ended up on the losing end of both matches in overtime.
In Friday’s game against the Rams, Rhody’s senior captain Steve Demoura netted an unassisted goal in the 97th minute of play to give URI the 1-0 victory. Two days later it was a different opponent but the same story as UMass freshman Obie Gravely scored on a bicycle kick in the 99th minute of play to hand the Owls their second 1-0 overtime loss of the weekend.
While the heartbreaking defeats extended Temple’s losing streak to nine games, they were losses in which MacWilliams’ team displayed promise of better things.
For MacWilliams, although his team is still plagued by an anemic offense, it seems as though he has found the answers to early-season questions in net and on defense.
Junior goalkeeper Drew Moser has recently stepped up his game and emerged as a solid number-one goalie for the Owls. Moser started both of the recent matches for Temple and provided his team with two outstanding performances, recording eight saves against URI and 11 saves against UMass.
In addition, MacWilliams appears to have strengthened an Owl defense that had been inconsistent throughout the season.
“We’ve made some changes and we’ve seemed to solidify our defense,” MacWilliams said. “Drew has come forward and made the saves when we needed him to, but the defense is much improved as well.
“The improvements we’ve seen have been a combo of Moser and the team defense playing a lot better in front of the net.”
The struggling Owls must take the next step and convert these improvements into wins if they have any hope of playing in the postseason. With only six games left in the season, the Owls are running out of time to secure a spot in the A-10 Championship Tournament.
MacWilliams is hoping that the solid defensive performances in these last two games will spark his team for one last push at a playoff spot.
“Obviously we still want to see if we can make a run at the A-10’s,” MacWilliams said. “They (Rhode Island and UMass were the two best teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference in my opinion, and we played them both real tough.
“We need to build from the positive. If we can play the same way against the other teams in the A-10, then we can win some games here.”
With the losses, the Owls fell to 1-9 overall on the year and 0-4 in the A-10.
The Owls will look to end their nine game drought and begin their run at a spot in the conference championships when they travel to Xavier for a critical A-10 battle on Friday.