It has been a season of “little things” for the men’s soccer team — little details, little mistakes, little plays, and most of all, a little margin for error.
Eight games into the season, seven of Temple University’s games have been determined by, at most, one goal. Temple’s (3-4-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) record consists of six games with a 1-0 result, one 2-1 overtime loss and one that ended in a 1-1 tie.
“The margin for error becomes slim,” coach Brian Rowland said. “I think we’re learning a little bit that any mistake can be the difference between winning a game and losing a game.”
“Obviously, we would’ve wanted to have a better record, but the games have been very close,” freshman forward Elias Hellgren Villegas said. “Maybe with a little bit more luck and a little bit more execution, we could’ve easily have been with a winning record. We could’ve won every game that we’ve played.”
Temple’s lack of offensive production has contributed to the close games. The Owls have not scored more than one goal in any game and have tallied just five goals in eight games.
To put Temple’s five goals into perspective, the American’s leader in goals, Central Florida junior forward Cal Jennings, has already scored nine this season.
“Certainly, I wish we were scoring more goals now,” Rowland said. “We just have to execute. If you look at the games we’ve played, we’ve certainly had opportunities in those games, so I think if we weren’t creating shots or corners or playing in the other team’s half, I’d be a little more concerned.”
While close games can mean more pressure, more overtimes and more losses, the Owls see a distinct bright side to them. The team recognizes that a few shots placed inches to the left or to the right or a few crisper passes could have resulted in a different outcome.
Because the goal differential has been low, the team is also confident in its ability to play with any team and make the contest competitive.
Two of the Owls’ 1-0 wins came against Old Dominion University on Sept. 2., and Central Florida on Friday. Old Dominion is ranked No. 20 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, while the Central Florida received 92 votes to be ranked and finished two spots outside the top 25.
“We are afraid of nobody,” sophomore defender Pierre Cayet said. “We have a really good team, and I think we can really improve each part of the defense, the midfield and forward, and we can score more goals.”
Thus far, the Owls were outshot by their opponents 89-72. Only 26 of the Owls’ attempts have reached goal, leaving Temple with a 36.1 shots-on-goal percentage compared to their eight opponents’ 41.6.
“We haven’t really created that many quality chances because a lot of the shots that we’ve had have been outside of the box,” Hellgren Villegas said. “The main thing I think is keeping focused when you get the ball in the box and not being afraid to take a shot even if you’ve missed chances before.”