For the first time since 2017, Temple University men’s soccer (5-4-1, 5-4-1 The American Athletic Conference) is entering the postseason with a winning record.
The Owls needed to make adjustments to their offense midseason because they couldn’t rely on their defense to bail them out in games against conference opponents.
Temple’s offense, led by sophomore forwards Mike Eijgendaal and Sean Karani, is playing its best all season due to a change in offensive strategy, which helped the Owls secure the third seed in The American Athletic Conference tournament.
“They are mostly sophomores and some freshmen,” said head coach Brian Rowland. “You know it is exciting for us because we have a great young attacking core here.”
Karani has started in all 10 games this season and recorded two goals, two assists and six points, while Eijgendaal leads the Owls in goals and points this season with four and 10, respectively.
Temple decided to change their offensive approach to put an emphasis on finishing chances close to the net in a team meeting after they lost 4-0 to Central Florida (7-3, 7-3 The American) on March 20.
“We did some extra finishing before practice with the forwards and all of those types of stuff,” Eijgendaal said.
This season, Temple finished fifth out of six teams with 93 total shots in The American, and they only scored four goals in six games between Feb. 13 and March 20. The Owls went 1-4-1 in conference play during that stretch.
In their last three games, the Owls have scored nine goals, all of which were wins against conference opponents, setting up an opportunity to go to the AAC tournament.
Karani, who scored two of the nine goals, made it his priority to work on his ball handling skills this season, he said.
“I was too much of a dribbler for sure,” Karani added. “Now with scouts coming out, it became a lot hard to dribble, so I just kinda had to learn to pass quicker and move quicker.”
Temple’s offense will be put to the test in the first round of the AAC tournament against the University of Tulsa (6-3-1, 6-3-1 The American), who sits second in the conference’s rankings.
The Golden Hurricane are led by redshirt-freshman forward Alex Meinhard, who is second in the conference in shots with 33 and leads the conference in goals with seven.
“I thought early in the year we were really dangerous in transition, and then certainly teams started to negate that,” Rowland said. “Any time you have a normal season, you are figuring these things out over the first six, seven, eight games of the season.”