With Temple holding a two-goal advantage and just more than seven minutes left on clock, Carlos Moros Gracia stood at midfield, shouting at the top of his lungs to get a teammate’s attention.
Although the game seemed to be in hand, the junior defender was still tirelessly chattering and communicating with his teammates, letting each know what was going on around them and what to be aware of.
Little things like communication have made a big difference for the Owls (2-0-1), who defeated Penn State—the No. 25 team in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America coaches’ poll—2-0 Friday.
“I think last year we were a very quiet team, we didn’t talk enough,” coach David MacWilliams said. “[Sophomore midfielder] [Brendon] Creed and Carlos have done a tremendous job back there. You can hear them all over the field. Carlos with his knowledge of the game and organization back there along with Creed, I think those two guys have done a tremendous job.”
Behind a strong performance from the back line of Creed and Gracia, as well as another shutout in goal from redshirt sophomore Alex Cagle—his second this season—to help the Owls upset the Nittany Lions.
“Communication is probably the biggest part of being in goal,” Cagle said. “Letting defenders know who is behind them, and on their weak side, and making sure everyone stays disciplined are my most important jobs.”
The Owls got on the board early, notching a goal in the 11th minute. After a Penn State defender fouled him just outside the box, junior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez set up for a free kick.
Sanchez fired a shot, which deflected off a wall of Penn State defenders. After some scrambling, the ball bounced back Sanchez’s way, and he fired another shot at close range. Penn State goalkeeper Matt Bersano made a diving stop lunging right, only to deflect the ball to Temple’s Justin Stoddart, who chipped in his first goal of the season.
“I think we have very intelligent, soccer-savvy players,” MacWilliams said. “As soon as we got a yellow card, I said ‘We need to be composed,’ and [the team] was already on top of it. They said ‘Hey coach, I know.’ So I am very happy with this group.”
The Owls capitalized again early in the second half. The Temple attack drew Bersano out of the goal, and sophomore midfielder Dihno Zwane raced to the loose ball and collided with Bersano just outside the box.
The ball once again deflected, and Sanchez finished off an open-net opportunity, as he was able to watch the ball roll slowly in.
“I was glad we weren’t chasing the game today,” MacWilliams said. “We talked about [scoring early] as being one of the keys for us. I think both teams are very solid defensively, so when you get that lead you put more pressure on the opposing team. They have to get after it a little bit.”
Dan Newhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @dannynewhart