Temple drops their first AAC game of the season

Temple lost their second straight game at home on Saturday night in a 4-1 loss to SMU.

Nigel Griffith, freshman forward, surveys the field during an Owls' game against Southern Methodist University at Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 18. | NICK DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The No. 18 Southern Methodist University Mustangs (4-0-2, 1-0-0 The American Athletic Conference) cruised to a dominating 4-1 win over Temple University men’s soccer (1-2-2, 0-1-0 The American Athletic Conference) at the Temple Sports Complex on Saturday night, with sophomore midfielder Harvey Castro scoring the game-deciding goal in the 25th minute on a curling shot.

“We’re here to win games,” said head coach Brian Rowland. “I think we gave them an opportunity to show that they’re a very senior team and they’re capable of finishing you off, and finding ways to make you pay for mistakes.”

Mustangs’ junior forward Papa Ndoye scored the first goal of the match for the Mustangs in the 20th minute on a breakaway. 

At the 59 minute, Owls’ freshman forward Nigel Griffith scored the lone goal for the Owls as his deflected shot just went past the goal line and, at the time, cut it to a 2-1 match. Temple only recorded three shots on goal and eight total shots.

“I was just trying to get into the box to get in a position to score and Mike played it and it just kind of fell into my feet and I just put it away,”  Griffith said.

In the 80th minute, Mustangs’ sophomore forward Jose Ortiz scored, increasing his team’s lead to 3-1. Ndoye capped things off with his second breakaway goal of the game in the 88th minute.

Prior to this game, Temple lost to Villanova University (5-1, 0-0-0 The Big East) 2-1 at home in double overtime, and their game against Georgetown University (6-0-0, 1-0 The Big East) on Tuesday was postponed due to COVID-19 protocol within the Temple program, The Temple News reported.

SMU was undefeated heading into the game against Temple, coming off of a 3-0 win over the University of Incarnate Word (1-4-1, 0-0-0 Western Athletic Conference).

The Mustangs fired 15 shots and 10 shots on goal against the Owls as sophomore goalkeeper Liam Cummings made his first career start in net for Temple, despite having only one day of training prior. 

Cummings registered six saves but allowed four goals in his debut, although all but one of them came on a breakaway. 

“We’re confident in Liam,” Rowland said. “He’s been with us, with the group for a few years now and we know that getting him back would give the boys some confidence in a time where obviously we’re missing Eoin.”

Temple’s starting goalkeeper, Eoin Gawronski, went down with a Jones fracture in his left foot in the game against Villanova. Cummings has big shoes to fill the rest of this season, but the team has faith in him, Rowland said.

“He’ll improve and get better,” Rowland added. “I thought he you know he wasn’t really to blame for anything today I thought he did a good job. And we know he’s going to improve as the team goes over the next few weeks, so we know what he’s capable of if he reaches his potential.”

Griffith’s goal was his second of the season, while sophomore forward Mike Eijgendaal notched his first assist this season. Temple also made four straight team saves, including three saves from freshman defender Alex O’Leary. However, this was not enough to stop the Mustangs high-powered attack.

“We worked hard, we didn’t give up,” Griffith said. “We kept plugging away, we got a goal and we were going for more so we kind of got caught in the counter attack but we didn’t give up so I think that was a positive we can take away.”

This game put the Owls in a tough position because they have lost their last two matches and are on the road for two of their next three games.

“I think adversity is probably the theme of our season to this point,” Rowland said. “So I know the guys are prepared to deal with the ups and downs that happen with injuries and calls against you and things like that. These things tend to even out in the course of the season so maybe we’ll get ours later in the year and it’ll help us turn the tables.”

Griffith wants the team to work on improving their scoring chances earlier in the game, he said.

I think getting the ball out wide and putting it into the box more,” Griffith said. “Just getting the ball in the box more, that’s the best way to create chances and score more goals.”

Temple will next face the University of Central Florida (3-3-0, 1-0-0 The American) at the UCF Soccer and Track Complex on Sept. 24 at 6:00 p.m.

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