Temple University men’s soccer (8-8-2, 3-2-2 The American Athletic Conference) fell to Central Florida (14-1-2, 6-0-1 The AAC) 5-0 on the road in the American Athletic Conference Championship semifinals on Wednesday night.
“I think we just ran into an opponent that was frankly at their best all year,” coach Brian Rowland said. “And I think we just were a little banged up, a little fatigued and you know we battled as best we could but certainly they were very efficient in their chances and I think we maybe ran out of a little bit of gas because of the circumstances that we’ve been in over the last little bit.”
Temple earned the first offensive chance of the game in the eighth minute when freshman forward Sean Karani won the foul just a few yards outside the box. Senior midfielder Leandros Lillis’ effort then curled wide right.
Central Florida had a scoring chance in the 14th minute when senior forward Cal Jennings was wide open for the volley inside the box but his attempt clanged off the crossbar.
The Knights scored in the 20th minute on a corner kick as junior defender Itzik Efraim hurled the ball into the right corner of the net.
Central Florida scored again 10 minutes later when Jennings dribbled the ball through the Owls’ defense and snuck it past senior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre.
Sophomore midfielder Mauricio Villalobos Vega made it a 3-0 lead for the Knights in the 35th minute. His curling shot just outside the box went into the upper part of the net.
Owls’ sophomore defender Esteban Suarez created an opportunity to score in the 39th minute but his shot went wide right. Temple headed into halftime trailing 3-0.
In the 58th minute, Temple earned a chance to score when Karani passed the ball wide left to senior forward Lukas Fernandes. Fernandes then crossed the ball into the box to Lillis, but he was ruled offside.
Sophomore defender Mikael Borger sent in a cross from the right wing and the ball made its way to freshman forward Aly Camara. Camara could not get the ball on frame and the match remained 3-0.
Then in the 68th minute, Jennings scored a tap-in goal. Senior midfielder/forward Richard Amon dribbled the ball down the right flank and played it across the front of the goal to give Jennings a scoring opportunity.
Jennings got a hat trick as he scored another sliding tap-goal in the 73rd minute to cap the scoring. Freshman midfielder/forward Gino Vivi created space inside the box before crossing it to Jennings on the far side for the goal.
“They didn’t do anything different than what we expected, but they executed and certainly I thought were very efficient in their opportunities,” Rowland said. “But he’s a very very good player, high caliber player at the collegiate level that’s capable of popping up and scoring goals.”
Temple lost by a final score of 5-0 and their historical AAC Championship tournament run came to an end. This was the first time Temple had appeared in the semifinal round since the conference’s formation in 2013.
Rowland is hoping to earn an at-large bid for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“I think we’re still feeling very good about our season and we should be in the conversation for an at-large bid,” Rowland said. “And if that’s the case then certainly we’ll play some more games.”