Temple falls to Central Florida in home opener

The Owls were shut out after missing multiple scoring opportunities.

Sophomore forward Sean Karani juggles the ball between his feet during the Owls' game against the University of Central Florida at the Temple Sports Complex on Feb. 13. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University men’s soccer (1-1, 1-1 The American Athletic Conference) lost to 14th-ranked Central Florida (1-1, 1-1 The American) 1-0 in freezing rain conditions in its home opener at the Temple Sports Complex Saturday night. 

Temple had several opportunities to score during the game, but was ultimately unable to mount a successful attack due to Central Florida’s stout defense. 

“I thought it was a game that was winnable,” said head coach Brian Rowland. “I think that’s the expectation of this program, and that’s the expectation of our team. They’re a good team, no disrespect to them, but we’re at the stage where this is a game we should win. That’s a game we shouldn’t have let slip away.”

The Knights earned the first scoring chance of the game at the one minute and 46 second mark as UCF freshman forward Lucca Dourado recorded a shot in the bottom left that was routinely saved by sophomore goalkeeper Nikolas Hartmann. In the second minute, Knights sophomore forward Gino Vivi’s shot went high.

In the 10th minute of the match, a bouncing ball following a corner kick found its way to sophomore forward Sean Karani, but his shot from outside the box went wide.

Karani earned another scoring chance in the 18th minute on a corner kick. He connected on a header whipped in by senior defender Esteban Suarez, but his shot once again went wide.

Dourado recorded shots on goal in the 22nd and 23rd minute of the first half, but Hartmann saved both of those scoring chances to keep the game scoreless.

The Knights scored the first goal of the game in the 38th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Freshman defender Anderson Rosa sent in a through ball to junior midfielder Mauricio Villalobos Vega, who received it inside the box. Villalobos Vega then sent in a low cross to Vivi, who settled the ball and chipped it over Hartmann for the goal.

“It could be better because we gave away that goal, it was too easy for them to score the first chance,” Suarez said. “It’s just frustrating because I think this team is built up for better things.”

Just a few minutes into the second half, senior defender Pierre Cayet received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. Junior midfielder Andres Charles was also booked for a yellow at the 57-minute mark.

At the 51 minute and 22 second mark, Hartmann made a diving save to his right as Central Florida junior defender Andres Hernandez Betancur recovered the ball in a scramble in the box and recorded the shot.

The Owls earned a scoring opportunity in the 62nd minute when sophomore midfielder Amir Cohen was sprung out wide and ripped a shot on goal. The shot was saved by Knights senior goalkeeper Yannik Oettl to preserve the lead.

“We had some half chances, I thought another day maybe those fall a little differently,” Rowland said. “I thought we played better in the second half than the first. I think some guys got themselves into good spots but ultimately I think we left it a little bit too late.” 

Knights senior midfielder Yoni Sorokin was issued a yellow card at the 80-minute mark as Temple was pushing offensively.

The Owls had some half-chances late in the match, including a header from junior forward Jalen Campbell that went just wide. Ultimately, the Owls were unable to even up the score and fell to a UCF side that has defeated and outscored them 8-0 in their last three matches.

“When we try to press a little bit and play better, it was a little bit too late, even though we [had] better chances in the second half,” Suarez said.

Temple will go on the road to face the University of Memphis (0-1, 0-1 The American) on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Billy J. Murphy Soccer Complex in Memphis, Tennessee. 

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