Owls kick off season with first scrimmage

The men’s soccer team scored three goals in 20 minutes, and then struggled to hold off Lafayette.

About 20 minutes into the men’s soccer scrimmage against Lafayette College on Tuesday, a chorus of around 20 kids chanted, “Let’s go Temple!” several times as the Owls looked to start their preseason on the right note.

The kids were a part of a YMCA summer camp—and at the time, they had already seen three goals, all courtesy of Temple.

The Owls were enjoying a three-goal lead early on, thanks to goals by junior midfielder/forward Jared Martinelli, freshman forward Olli Tynkkynen, and sophomore defenseman Robert Sagel.  But once those 20 minutes passed, Lafayette adjusted, pressed up and collected two goals before the halftime whistle.

The second of those tallies came off a corner kick in stoppage time—a momentum shifter that would end up foreshadowing a second half in which Temple was sloppier with the ball, and Lafayette created several chances that could have tied the match.

Instead, Temple squeaked by Lafayette in a 3-2 final.

Coach Dave MacWilliams was pleased with how his players started the contest, but said he needs to see more consistency throughout each entire 45-minute half.

“That’s always something that frustrates me as a coach, giving up goals late in the first half,” MacWilliams said.  “I think that changes [the match], gives the other team a lot of momentum going into halftime.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Temple jumped out to a fast start, as Martinelli finished off a quick counter attack by placing a left-footed shot in the bottom right-hand corner of Lafayette’s net.

“Dinho [Zwane] won a ball for us, and played it down the line to [Matt] Mahoney,” Martinelli said.  “And fortunately I was wide open in the box, Mahoney found me and I was able to put one away.”

The junior forward led Temple with six goals and four assists last season, and was a preseason all-conference team selection in the American Athletic Conference.  Martinelli said that honor means more after the season than before it.

“That really doesn’t matter all that much to me,” Martinelli said.  “It matters at the end of the year and that’s hopefully where I want to be.  You can’t really make too much of the beginning of the year, [because] I haven’t played a game yet.”

Temple’s second goal was arguably the highlight of the match, when freshman forward Olli Tynkkynen launched a shot from outside the penalty box that beat Lafayette goalie in the upper right-hand corner.  The goal proved to be a fine example of MacWilliams’ recruiting class making an immediate impact on the attacking side of the ball.

“We’re definitely thinking Olli is a guy that can score 10 or more goals for us this year,” MacWilliams said.  “The way he finished that ball, it was clinical. … We have high expectations, and we think he’s a guy who can deliver.  He’s a great finisher.”

Returning to the defensive side of the ball, sophomore defender Robert Sagel rounded out the scoring for Temple by converting a penalty kick almost midway through the first half.  Sagel said that scoring from the penalty is all about confidence.

“[The ref] points to the [penalty] spot,” Sagel said.  “You just have to step up and take it.”

Sagel added that Lafayette’s success later on in the game was due to multiple factors.

“We got a lot of improvements to make,” Sagel said.  “We were slow in possession, and still have some organization we got to sort out in the back defensively.  Individually, I thought it was OK for our first preseason game of the year, and we’ll build off it.”

Like Martinelli, Sagel was a preseason All-Conference selection.  The 6-foot-3-inch sophomore defender  and was a key factor in Temple’s success last season, winning the William “Bill” Wilkinson Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia Soccer Six, among other honors.

Sagel said having no such prior recognition made it easier to excel last season.  Now, with all the awards from last year and a season under his belt, he plans to keep improving.

“Last year, I didn’t have too much recognition, so that wasn’t too much pressure,” Sagel said.  “This year, that’s a different story, and I’m going to have to live up to it.  Now I’m kind of a leader in the back line and especially going forward [this season], so I’m going to have to step up.”

Ultimately, MacWilliams feels Temple has to improve on a lot of things, ranging from midfielders pushing higher up the field to handling teams heavily pressuring the ball.  But most importantly, the Owls will have to be more consistent throughout the full 90 minutes of each match.

MacWilliams split his team’s performance on Tuesday into two categories.

“The first 15 to 20 minutes was very good,” MacWilliams said.  “But I think after that, it was very average.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steven.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.

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