Owls lack finishing touch in home opening loss to UCF

Written by: Owen Boyle

Photo by: Matt Ralph

The Owls struggled to find goal scoring opportunities as they fell 1-0 to nationally ranked UCF in this season’s home opener.

UCF came into the match winless after losing their home opener to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. Despite last week’s result, the Golden Knights were ranked as the 14th best team in the country in the most recent TopDrawerSoccer rankings. 

Temple entered this one atop the American Athletic Conference after an opening weekend win at USF. 

The game was originally scheduled to take place at 7pm but was moved up to 2pm due to incoming inclement weather in the Philadelphia area.

The Owls made one change to the starting 11 following the 3-2 victory last Saturday night. Paul Frendach replaced Mickael Borger at the right back position.

This was Frendach’s first competitive match as an outside back after performing well at that spot in one of Temple’s two preseason scrimmages. 

“I thought Paul did really well,” said coach Brian Rowland. “He is a versatile player and it was a necessity to move him to the right back position today.”

The Owls were without their usual starting right back, Mickael Borger, who picked up an injury midweek.

UCF took control of the first half early on. The visitors had two shots within the game’s first three minutes, one on target and one narrowly missing the goal. 

Temple’s best chance of the half came from a corner kick midway through the first frame. A defensive header fell right to the foot of Sean Karani who volleyed the opportunity wide.

The Golden Knights notched the game’s lone goal in the 39th minute. A low ball across the box from Mauricio Villalobos found the boot of Gino Vivi, he patiently outwaited Nikolas Hartmann to chip it into the net. 

“It was too easy for them to score,” defender Esteban Suarez said. “We could have been better defensively.”

Gino Vivi, last season’s AAC rookie of the year, was a force all afternoon. He recorded one goal, two shots, and created numerous scoring opportunities for his teammates.

The first attacking chance of the second half came from the aforementioned Vivi. He cut inside at the top of the box but his low shot was gobbled up off the icy turf by Hartmann. 

The transfer goalie was forced to make another save just a few minutes later, this one was the most difficult of the match. A loose ball in the box found the feet of defender Andres Hernandez. Hartmann was quick to react, diving to his right to make an outstanding goal line save. 

“I’m happy that Niko was able to stay tuned in,”Rowland said. “He was able to make the plays when called upon.”

Andres Charles picked up the Owl’s second yellow card of the day in the 58th minute. Defender Pierre Cayet was also issued a yellow card caution for a dangerous tackle just 10 minutes before. 

The Owl’s best opportunity of the match came in the 63rd minute. Sophomore Amir Cohen found himself on a partial breakaway but his low shot was saved by Yannik Oettl. 

The cherry and white had their opportunities to find the back of the net. Five total corner kicks and a few late game free kicks were not enough to get on the scoresheet. 

The Owls tallied eight shots throughout the match, only two of them on target. Temple was also caught offside four different times, all of these came in the second half.

“I thought that was a winnable game,” Rowland said. “That is the expectation of this program and the expectation of this team.”

Temple has now lost four out of their last five to the Golden Knights dating back to the 2016 season. The Owls have been shutout by a combined score of 8-0 in their last three matches against the Central Floridians. 

The Owls will head back on the road when they face Memphis this Saturday. The Tigers will enter the matchup with one loss under their belt after being idle this weekend. 

“I think this game is key for our season,” Suarez said. “It is our second away game of the season and a perfect opportunity to bounce back from today’s loss.”

The Owls will kick off their second road match of the 2021 campaign at 8pm from the Billy J. Murphy Soccer complex, this game can be seen on ESPN+.


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