As junior midfielder Joonas Jokinen scored the go ahead goal at the Temple Sports Complex, the “T” mounted on top of Morgan Hall stood tall in the background.
After 16 years at Temple, coach David MacWilliams was finally coaching a Big 5 game on Main Campus.
Jokinen’s goal made sure it was a win as Temple defeated the Hawks 2-0 in the first game against a Philadelphia school at the new facility.
“That was one of our soccer six games and we were co-champs last year, looking to repeat this year,” MacWilliams said. “We are halfway there.”
The new sports complex has bleachers, which seat 500 people. After spectators filled the red grandstand, the overload portion of the crowd traveled to the shade, sitting on a patch of grass between the goal and locker rooms on the south side of the field.
With 1,047 people in attendance, energy was high for the Owls.
“Although we have had home games, we haven’t had a chance to play in front of our student body,” MacWilliams said. “This is a tremendous feeling for our kids.”
Temple outshot the Hawks 10-1 in the first half but did not convert any of the opportunities. In a close chance at the back of the net, freshman midfielder Albert Moreno came up the middle of the field, sending the ball off the crossbar.
Temple headed into its new locker rooms scoreless as people lined up around the players, as they entered and exited the building.
With 23 minutes remaining in the game, Jokinen sent the ball sliding through the turf and into the net to give Temple the lead.
In three years at Temple, it is the first time Jokinen played against the Hawks on Temple soil. For Jokinen, a goal scored on campus means more.
“It means a lot to us as a team and the school too,” Jokinen said. “We had decent crowds out in the past, but nothing compares to this.”
While spectators ate free Insomnia Cookies handed out by staff, Temple scored its second goal when senior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez netted a penalty kick with eight minutes remaining. Sophomore midfielder Jordan Wix-Rauch said the games at Ambler were not Philadelphia games.
“When we were at Ambler, it was a Philly 5 game, but when you are playing outside of Philadelphia, it doesn’t feel like it,” Wix-Rauch said. “It was nice to have a full crowd not just full of Temple people, but Saint Joseph’s as well.”
The last Big 5 game Temple played in Philadelphia came Sept. 20, 2015 in a 3-0 win at the University of Pennsylvania. The Owls did not play St. Joe’s last season.
Temple will play its next Big 5 game at Drexel on Sept. 13. The next time Temple will host a Big 5 team is when Villanova will visit on Oct. 4.
With eight home games remaining on the schedule, Temple has something to look forward to.
“It means a lot to us that people are coming out,” Jokinen said. “With these inner city games, they are very physical and you just have to grind out till the end.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ConnorNJ4life.