Owls blank Cincinnati in conference opener

Temple’s 2-0 win against Cincinnati Saturday was its first in nearly a month.

For the first time in nearly a month, the men’s soccer team won a match.

The victory came in its first American Athletic Conference game of the season, as the Owls defeated the University of Cincinnati, 2-0, at the Ambler Sports Complex Saturday afternoon.

Forwards Jared Martinelli and Chas Wilson were the goal scorers, ending a three-game scoreless streak for Temple. Both were assisted by midfielder Miguel Polley, who controlled the ball well in the middle third of the field and played with energy all afternoon.

Martinelli’s goal was crucial, as it came almost eight minutes after kick-off. Redshirt defender Mark Grasela passed the ball forward to Polley, who delivered a clinical back heel pass to Martinelli at the right edge of the 18-yard line.

The junior from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania slotted the ball into the bottom left corner past Cincinnati goalie Alex Gill, producing the first goal for the Owls in about 305 minutes of match play.

Martinelli, who was the last player to score for the Owls’ in a 2-2 draw at La Salle on Sept. 13, was happy to score for his team.

“It felt great for my teammates,” Martinelli said. “It was good to get another goal under my belt to start conference [play] off.”

Martinelli added that Polley’s pass was just one example of the trouble he creates for defenses up top.

“He did a great job,” Martinelli said. “He creates so many chances for everyone up top. It was a great pass and luckily I was able to finish it.”

Temple’s defense also produced a clean sheet in front of senior goalie Dan Scheck, who finished the day with two saves on 10 Cincinnati shots. It was the first shutout since Aug. 31, the last time the Owls won a match, which was against Sacramento State.

Coach MacWilliams was pleased with how his defense was able to turn it around for the first time in several weeks. The key matchup was Grasela on Bearcat junior forward John Manga, who had come into the afternoon scoring five goals in three games.

“We talked about that before the game,” MacWilliams said. “I said, ‘Mark, I’m expecting a big game from you, making sure you’re on top, that he’s not going to get a touch, or get a look at goal.’ Because he’s the guy that’s been finishing for them. Mark took the challenge, and came out and did a great job.”

Grasela credited his success to teaming up with fellow defender and co-captain Robert Sagel. Both were all over Cincinnati’s top goal-scorer, who only registered one shot all game.

“We [Rob and I] knew we had good speed, but if we got into him [physically], his game was going to start getting off,” Grasela said. “Our job was we were going to hit him a couple of times before, show him that we’re there, so that every time he tries to turn he’s going to know someone’s there on his back.”

Back on the offensive side, Temple added an insurance goal three minutes and 56 seconds into the second half. This time, redshirt senior defender Jonah Williams started the chance, with Polley again laying the ball off for the scorer, who this time was Wilson.

Wilson stayed composed and took several touches before firing the ball from the right side of the penalty box, scoring a goal from around 18 yards out in the upper 90.

MacWilliams said Wilson’s patience probably stemmed from Martinelli’s goal from the first half.

“Us being up might have helped Chas,” MacWilliams said. “He might have shot that earlier than he did [if we were down]. He was composed on his shot … I even thought he was taking too many touches … but had we not gotten a goal, he might have tried to shoot that earlier and maybe not have gotten the same result.”

One area of the game Temple improved on Saturday was movement off the ball. Even with the 2-0 win, MacWilliams said there’s room for improvement.

“It’s going to continue to improve,” MacWilliams said. “The guys realize now that we have to play as a team, we can’t play as individuals, and in order to have success, this is a team sport. We have to share the ball and move the ball. If we do that, we’re going to be successful.

The Owls have a week off before traveling to Florida to face the University of Southern Florida, the team that ended their season with a 1-0 victory at the Ambler Sports Complex Nov. 9 last year.

Loose notes:

Temple’s win moves their overall record to (2-6-1, 1-0-0) in The American … Cincinnati, who came in on a three-game winning streak, drops to 3-4-2 (0-1-0 The American) … Martinelli missed a second goal by inches after his shot hit the right post at the 78:50 mark … Bearcat junior midfielder/forward Alejandro Garcia missed tying the match up at the 16:06 mark after his shot hit the crossbar from around 35 yards out … The shutout marked Scheck’s 16th clean sheet of his career at Temple.

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