Written By: Owen Boyle
Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports
2021 Men’s Soccer Season Preview
After a successful modified season in the spring, the Temple Men’s Soccer team is gearing up for a normal fall season in 2021.
Returning veterans and incoming players will look to build off a strong campaign last year and help Temple lift their first AAC Men’s Soccer title.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the American Athletic Men’s Soccer season was moved from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021.
The Owls went straight into conference play without their usual non-conference schedule at the beginning of each season.
The cherry and white started the season 1-3, losing three consecutive home matches. However, they would finish the year strong with a 4-1-1 record in their last six matches.
The biggest win of the season came at home against the number-two ranked SMU Mustangs. The Owls defeated the Mustangs 2-0 in what was the highest-ranked victory in program history.
Temple would finish the season in third place but fell to Tulsa on penalty kicks in the AAC semifinals.
“We took a big step last year,” said coach Brian Rowland. “We really progressed in terms of where we finished in our conference.”
The Owls have a quick turnaround as they had just four months in between the end of last season and the start of this season.
“It’s nice not to have too much downtime,” said Rowland. “You get into a phase of rest, recovery, and preparation back to back, which is great.”
The team has already completed preseason and a string of exhibition games throughout August.
The Owls tied college soccer powerhouse Maryland in their opening exhibition but lost the final two exhibitions.
Last season, Pierre Cayet was awarded the AAC Preseason Defender of the Year, and this season Eoin Gawronski was awarded the AAC Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year. The redshirt freshman was the first Temple goalie to win this award since 2014.
“The guys have confidence in Eoin just like they had confidence in Pierre,” said Rowland. “Eoin is a very good goalkeeper, and it’s a very talented league, so for him to get that recognition is great.”
Gawronski was also named to the AAC Preseason All-Conference Team, along with his teammates Sean Karani and Jalen Campbell. All three players were unanimous selections.
“Awards are always a good thing,” said Gawronski. “It just means I have to be better this year.”
The Owls are once again slated to finish fifth out of six teams in the AAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
“We control what we can control, which is the results on the field,” said Rowland. “Often, these rankings don’t mean a whole lot.”
Plenty of New Faces
Fourteen new players have arrived at North Broad this season, including eight first-year students and six transfers.
The Owls added players from successful college soccer programs and numerous high-end MLS academies.
Kemali Green, Daniel Moya, and Josh Chong will all feature this season after having success with their respective MLS Academies.
“It’s nice when you play with the best players from the academies,” said Kemali Green. “It can be difficult playing against them because they’re good.”
The elephant in the room all offseason was how the coaching staff would fill the holes on defense.
The Owls lost three of their four starting defenders from last season. Pierre Cayet, Esteban Suarez, Brandon Johnson, and Mickael Borger were all prominent pieces on the Owls backline during the previous two seasons.
Borger was the only defender to stay, coming back as a graduate player.
“My goal was to play professionally,” said Mickael Borger. “I knew that it wasn’t possible for this year, so I decided to come back for another year and help the team.”
Defender Spencer Patton was brought in as a transfer to help fill the void left by outside back Esteban Suarez. Patton, a native of Morrisville, PA, spent his first three seasons with Virginia.
“Being a local kid, I wanted to bring something to Philadelphia,” said Patton. “I want to put Philadelphia on the college soccer map.”
The Owls are bringing back the majority of their attacking and midfield playmakers.
Mike Eijgendaal and Jalen Campbell return; both forwards were tied for the team lead in points (10) and goals (4). Attacking midfielder Amir Cohen was also tied for the team lead in goals after a successful 2020 season.
Nigel Griffith returns for his second season in North Philadelphia. The Barbados native came alive in the second half of the season, notching two goals and two assists.
Forward Alex Marin saw a decent amount of action during his first season but did not register any points. However, Marin has impressed throughout preseason after scoring his first goal in the exhibition against Maryland.
The midfield duo of Andres Charles and Paul Frendach will be reinstated into the center of the park for the Owls. Charles featured in the first two games of the season before missing the last eight due to an injury.
“It’s great being back on the field,” said Andres Charles. “It’s tough sitting on the sidelines after playing for so long and then having to cheer the guys on from the sidelines is very hard.”
The coaching staff has always viewed Charles as the quarterback of their offense in the midfield.
“Chuck (Andres Charles) is a guy we rely on heavily and that the guys trust with the ball,” said Rowland. “As a coaching staff, we view him as a leader and trust him to make decisions on the field.”
Coach Brian Rowland will have plenty of new faces and experienced players to choose from this season.
A 17-game season is on tap for the Men’s Soccer team after only playing ten games in the spring.
The Owls will open the season with two road games. Their first game of the campaign will be this Thursday night against number 10 ranked Seton Hall. They will travel for a match this Sunday at Rutgers.
This season, the team will play four matches against top 15 opponents, two within the AAC and two out of conference.
The cherry and white will be back on North Broad for their home opener on September 4th when they host Manhattan. This game is the first of a four-game homestand where the Owls will host Philly Soccer Six rival Villanova, Big East regular-season champion Georgetown, and AAC foe, SMU.
September 18th’s matchup with SMU will kickstart conference play. The Owls will wrap up the month with a road match against UCF and a home match with Memphis.
Temple will play a total of eight games in October, six within the American Athletic Conference and two out of conference. The Owls will visit SMU, Tulsa, Penn, and Memphis, while Princeton, USF, UCF, and Tulsa will face the Owls at TSC.
The Owls have just one game in November when they travel to Florida to take on the USF Bulls.
The AAC tournament will start on November 10th and finish on November 13th. The top four teams will make the playoffs, with the regular-season champion hosting the tournament.
New Year, Same Goals
After finishing in third place last year, the Owls have their eyes on another strong regular season campaign. A fast start will be critical for the Owls to improve on last year’s success.
“We have to start right away. We want to win every game,” said Borger. “We are trying to reach the conference championship or the NCAA tournament.”
The Owls have never won the AAC regular season and have never lifted the AAC Championship trophy.
“Our goal every year is to win a championship,” said Rowland.
The cherry and white will look to build off a successful 2020 season and reach new heights this fall.