Temple Men’s Soccer has hope for the first time in years

The Owls started the season winless, but their final stretch showed what the team is capable of under head coach Bryan Green.

Temple Men's Soccer finished the year contending for a playoff spot, and the program has a lot of momentum for the first time in years. | JOSHUA CRELLIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Coming into his first year as Temple Men’s soccer’s head coach, Bryan Green knew he had a tall task ahead of him in trying to lead a rebuild. The Owls hadn’t had a winning season in three years, something Green hoped to change.

Halfway through the season, the Owls had yet to win a game and looked like a lost cause. Sparked by an upset win against defending champion Syracuse, the Owls’ made a late season push, coming within a game of a American Athletic Conference tournament berth. 

The Owls finished with a 3-8-4 record and a lower overall win percentage than last year. But those numbers don’t tell the full story of the progression the team made throughout the season. Their 2-4-2 conference record was good for seventh in the AAC, and the Owls showed the ability to compete with top-notch teams.

“I said all along that we have been improving and every game we’ve gotten better,” Green said in October. “If we continue improving every game from here on out, we’ll get some results.”

Despite missing out on the AAC tournament for a third straight season, this year felt different than the last two. The Owls showed promise in the second half of the season and displayed positive signs toward the future of the program.

Temple scored just eight goals in its first eight games of the season, going 0-5-3. They gave up 25 goals, including 12 goals in a two-game span against St. John’s and Florida International on Sept. 11 and 16. The season looked bleak, and the Owls were forced to dig themselves out of a hole for a fighting chance in the AAC.

Then, momentum began to shift. The Owls earned their first win of the season in a 3-0 victory against Florida Atlantic behind two goals from midfielder Felix Ewald, who has established himself as a top scorer on the team going forward.

“[Green] gave me a lot of confidence,” Ewald said after the win. “He really sees something in me. He sees my talent, and I really appreciate that.”

After that win, the Owls followed with arguably college soccer’s biggest upset of the season, taking down reigning national champion Syracuse 2-1 off a goal from midfielder Rocco Haeufgloeckner in the final minutes. While it didn’t affect conference progress, the win solidified Temple’s ability to go toe-to-toe with any team in the nation. 

The Owls turned their winless start into a 3-3-1 stretch during the final month of the season. Even during the winless stretch, Green knew his team was making progress and believed the results would eventually show.

“The chemistry and the morale have been building every week,” said Green ahead of Temple’s final three games. “The chemistry was great and the morale was good because you know the guys want to win and we weren’t winning, but the wins against FAU and Syracuse helped.”

Green wanted his team to play aggressively, and they stuck to that game plan after the slow start. All 23 of the Owls’ goals came from underclassmen. Ewald led with six goals, followed by forward Juan Zepeda’s three. The two spearheaded an offense that finished 73rd out of 202 Division I teams in goals per game, and both earned all-AAC honors.

Haeufgloeckner also made an impact, finishing tied for third on the team in goals and minutes played. Midfielder Draven Barnett was the only returning player who logged more minutes than Haeufgloeckner.

With the roster being made up of 24 underclassmen, the Owls are poised to grow closer together as time goes on. 

“Under Green, we’ve been rebuilding,” said forward Lleyton Imparato following Temple’s win against FAU. “In the short time he has had with us, a lot of people won’t see it, but there has been a ton of improvement.”

While the offense took a step forward, the defense still held the Owls back. Temple ranked 59th in the country in saves per game but were outscored 36-23 on the season. Flannan Riley started eight games in net and recorded 26 saves, and Andrew Kempe started seven games and recorded 30. While the two put up solid performances, both are seniors and it is unknown if they will come back for a fifth season. 

Temple will also lose fifth-year midfielder Kemali Green, a staple of the defense for the past two seasons. Eight defenders will return next season, and the Owls need to find their next anchor. Early candidates could be Nikolai Zapolskikh or Aaron Markowitz, who both scored goals and earned valuable time as underclassmen.

At the goalkeeper position, Green could turn to sophomores Micah Ramirez and Zain Hameed. Ramirez appeared in five games during the 2022 season, and Hameed has yet to see the field for the Owls. 

At a glance, a 3-8-4 record seems underwhelming. But Green and his team made significant strides in his first season at the helm. 

Returning players and staff have plenty to learn going forward, but Temple’s final seven games were as good as it gets for a young squad. With minor adjustments, the Owls hope to be contending in the AAC very soon.

“We’re going to work hard,” Green said. “We’re going to treat each other with respect, and we are going to come together as a team.”

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