Minai’s play fuels triumph

Men’s soccer coach David MacWilliams was not about to let his young team make a rookie mistake. With his team clinging to a one-goal lead at halftime, MacWilliams made sure the Owls did not get comfortable or lose focus.

The Owls responded, scoring two second-half goals to beat Howard, 3-0, Sunday in the second round of the Drexel Invitational Tournament, held at Vidas Field.

“It scared me in the first half only being up 1-0,” MacWilliams said. “I thought we came off at halftime like we had already won the game. I laid into the boys at halftime, because I thought we were a little lax. And the guys responded – they did a great job.”

The Owls, who have just eight upperclassmen on their roster, started the game on the offensive, looking dominant at the beginning of the first half. They totaled 17 shots in the first stanza while limiting the Bison to four.After keeping the ball in Bison territory early, Temple (2-1-1) took the lead as freshman midfielder Max Kinderwater scored from in close with 31:17 remaining in the half. Sophomore Francois Sagna and senior David Suah assisted on the play.

A few minutes later, Kinderwater set up sophomore J.T. Noone in front of the net with a well-struck pass. Noone came close to scoring on his initial shot and the rebound that followed, but couldn’t find the net.

Howard eventually showed signs of life near the end of the half, letting a few shots loose, but the Owls managed to hold them off until the buzzer.

The second half began with both teams moving the ball into each other’s zones. Temple had a chance to score with 38:44 left when Sagna hit a crossing Noone helped his team extend the lead later in the half when he assisted senior forward Mike Minai score at the 62-minute mark.

“I got the ball out wide and it was a nice show from J.T.,” Minai said. “I played it to him, he played it to me, I gave it back to him, and he held it for a bit as I ran around the defense. Then I was just one-on-one with the goalie and I saw the far post wide open. So, I just slid it far post.”Minai and Noone got a few more good shots on net and their persistence paid off. At 82:39, freshman Greg Strompolos scored a goal assisted by Minai and Kinderwater, putting the game out of the Bisons’ reach.

Minai said the Owls’ aggressive play started with the forwards.

“Coach told them before the game to put a lot of pressure on the defense and push them to one side or the other,” Minai said. “[Howard] struggled when pressured and they gave the ball to us a lot, which allowed us to counter attack. I think with a little more finishing, we should have won five, six [or] seven to nothing.”

MacWilliams thought the score could have been higher, but liked the way Minai executed the game plan.

“Mike’s a very skillful player,” MacWilliams said. “We usually play him in the middle of the field, but we put him out wide today. We thought with the way the game was going, we wanted to attack on the outside. He came on the outside and scored a goal and he set up a few more that we should have finished.”

After winning the first game of the tournament against Rider Friday and beating Howard in the second round, MacWilliams said there is one important element his players can take from such a strong showing.

“Confidence. We have more shutouts in the first five games than we did all last year,” MacWilliams said. “I think defensively we are pretty solid and if we start scoring goals like we did this weekend, that’s going to help us.”

Andrew Pluta can be reached at apluta@temple.edu.

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