Owls injury woes tanked their 2021 season

Temple University men’s soccer finished the season not recording a single point in conference play.

Temple Men's Soccer lines up before their game against the University of Memphis at the Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 29. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University men’s soccer ended the 2021 season on a seven-game losing streak, finishing last in the American Athletic Conference standings with a 0-10-0 record in conference play and an overall record of 2-12-2. 

This was Temple’s worst losing streak and overall record since the 2014 season, which also ended on a seven-game skid and  2-14-2 record.

Head coach Brian Rowland believes the Owls made just a few mistakes each game, which cost them because of how skilled their opponents were, he said.

“The conference is very competitive, and when you commit those types of mistakes against the teams we play against, that is going to be the result,” Rowland said. “Over the last few games the team has played well but the result has gone the other way.” 

Besides the seven-game losing streak, the Owls went on a five-game losing streak earlier in the season, including two losses against nationally-ranked Southern Methodist University.

Injuries were Temple’s main problem, with redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Eoin Gawronski suffering a season-ending Jones fracture in his foot during the Owls’ fourth game. Junior midfielder Santiago Majewski, sophomore forward Sean Karani and junior midfielder Kemali Green also suffered season-ending injuries.

“Obviously the loss of Eoin and the form he was in, confidence that he gave the team, certainly was a setback that was pretty, pretty big,” Rowland said. “We just really never got in a rhythm.”

As the team’s losing streak grew, finding motivation became a challenge for the Owls, and affected both individuals’ and the team’s performance, Rowland said. 

“I think winning is contagious, I think losing is contagious,” Rowland added. “ I think obviously, finding opportunities to play for things and be motivated is certainly a challenge when they’re losing and when guys lose a little bit of confidence.”

Senior goalkeeper Goodwill Agbaadem believes the defense could have done much better in the latter half of the season, especially as they experimented and learned to play with each other in the back every game, he said.

“Focus wasn’t really there,” Agbaadem added. “We could have done better with focus, we could’ve played much better and just keep the ball more.”

Temple’s defense allowed 32 goals in 16 games, which is the third-worst goals allowed in the conference. The team’s goals against average of 1.94 was the second worst in the conference.

Owls’ senior defender Mikael Borger thinks the group struggled as a result of players adjusting to the system on the fly, like switching players in and out of the lineup, and not having a solidified starting 11, he said.

“Because we had goals and we couldn’t achieve them, we felt that we were losing sight, that maybe the goals that we had were not achievable anymore.” Borger said. “Our vision was so high that maybe just losing one game or two sometimes really impacted us a lot.”

Rowland and his team will look to get healthy for next season and hope their defense will improve when Gawronski returns from his injury.

The Owls will need to be more efficient in scoring goals next season and take advantage of their scoring chances inside the box. The team lacked the final touch this season, which held them back from finishing scoring opportunities.

The Owls averaged 0.88 goals per game this season, and only scored 13 goals in 15 games as they were shut out six times.

Younger players gained experience this season, which will equip them to take on the tough conference competition next season.

“I do think we’re better than our record,” Rowland said. “But we have to own the fact that our record is our record, so from that standpoint it’s disappointing, but obviously, we can get back to where we were very quickly.”

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