Temple men’s soccer win first conference game of the season

An early goal from Lukas Fernandes propelled the Owls to a 1-0 victory over Central Florida.

Junior forward Lukas Fernandes and sophomore defender Pierre Cayet celebrate Fernandes' goal in the 1-0 win against the University of Central Florida at the Temple Sports Complex on Friday. | JUSTIN OAKES / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The ball hadn’t even hit the back of the net and Lukas Fernandes already sprinted to the sideline, hands in the air, with his teammates jumping around behind him.

The junior pumped his fists and blew kisses to the stands, seemingly to no one in particular. But Fernandes sought out his parents, who drove about 5 1/2 hours from Rochester, New York to see him play in Temple’s second home game of the season.

“I wanted to come back and show them that I saw them in the stands,” Fernandes said. “I was very excited. It was my first conference goal in my career, so I was ready to celebrate.”

Temple (3-4-1, 1-0 The American) picked up its first American Athletic Conference win and first home win against Central Florida (5-2-1, 0-1 The American), defeating the Knights 1-0 at the Temple Sports Complex on Friday.

In the 23rd minute, freshman forward Elias Hellgren Villegas passed the ball between two Central Florida defenders to leave Fernandes one-on-one with sophomore goalkeeper Yannik Oettl. Fernandes beat Oettl for his second goal of the season.

“I was happy that we found ways to disrupt a very good team and get an early goal,” coach Brian Rowland said. “It was certainly nice to help give us some relief.”

“All week, we’ve been training to win the ball in their half and counter-attack quickly and move forward as a team,” Fernandes said. “Elias got the ball and as soon as he got it, I started making that run in behind, and it was a perfect ball.”

Temple’s offense recorded 11 shots, six of which were on goal. Fernandes and Hellgren Villegas each had two shots while seven other Owls each recorded one.

The Knights recorded 11 of their 19 shots in the second half. Junior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre saved all Central Florida’s shots on goal, ending the night with seven saves.

“I think just naturally when you’re up a goal, the other team’s tendency is going to be to push more numbers forward, and I think we kind of got caught in that,” junior midfielder Nick Sarver said. “We kind of just had to weather the storm a little bit. We defended the second half well.”

The Owls shut out Central Florida’s offense, which ranks first in The American in both shots and goals per game. The Knights received national attention after earning 92 votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll.

Temple’s defense was also tasked with keeping the Knights junior forward Cal Jennings off the scoreboard. Jennings leads The American with nine goals, averaging 5.67 shots per game. The Owls held Jennings to three shots, two of which were on target.

“[Jennings] along with a couple other guys were people that we kind of triggered on making sure we could stop them, and we did,” Rowland said. “I thought that we did a great job and the guys executed what we wanted to do, so any time they do that, I’m happy.”

The Owls’ next game will be against City Six opponent, Villanova, on Sept. 26 at the Temple Sports Complex.

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