Written By: Owen Boyle
Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports.com
After going in front early, the Owls conceded two late goals in the first half, which extended their losing streak to three.
USF came to visit North Broad to finish the home-and-home series between the two AAC teams. Temple won the opening game of the season 3-2 against this very same Bulls team.
The Owls were once again without star midfielder Andres Charles who missed his second straight match with an undisclosed injury.
“It’s like missing your quarterback,” said coach Brian Rowland. “It’s a big loss for us. He has played almost every single minute since I became the coach, and he sees the game how I want it to be played.”
Charles’ injury status and timetable is unknown.
The opening 15 minutes of the game saw little action until Niko Hartmann was called into action 20 minutes in. The transfer goalie dove to his right to stop a low shot from Trey Jackson.
The Cherry and White broke the deadlock 22 minutes in with their first shot. Mike Eijgendaal collected the ball at the edge of the 18-yard box and whipped in a cross that was volleyed home by Amir Cohen.
This was Cohen’s second goal of the season after scoring his first against USF on opening night.
Just over 10 minutes later, USF found the back of the net. Jeffrey Copper fired a rocket into the top corner from the left side of the penalty area. The left-footed shot was the freshman’s first college goal.
In the 40th minute, Segun Afolabi headed home USF’s second goal of the evening just six minutes later. This was also the first career goal for the freshman out of Georgia, flicking home an excellent ball from Josue Monge.
Monge, a Philadelphia native and former Philadelphia Union academy player assisted on South Florida’s goals.
“We gave up two goals that I wasn’t happy with,” said Rowland.
The Bulls went into the halftime interval with a 2-1 lead.
Rowland made a drastic halftime substitution when he took out goalkeeper Niko Hartmann and replaced him with redshirt freshman Eoin Gawronski.
This was the shot-stopper’s first-ever action for the Cherry and White. The Limerick, PA, native did not see game action last season after joining the Continental FC Delco team.
“I thought the team needed a little boost,” said Rowland. “For us to get after it in the second half, we needed to make a change that could help the team, so we were confident in Eoin.”
The Owls were given a dangerous set-piece early on in the second half. Fabian Grant failed to capitalize on the opportunity, firing a shot well over the net.
Mike Eijgendaal had two clear-cut chances in 4 minutes to level the match at two. The first was a volley from inside the box that went just over the crossbar. The second opportunity was a low shot which Kazuna Takase saved.
As the Owls were pressing for a goal, they left themselves susceptible to a USF counterattack. The Bulls got their chance to finish off the game, but Gawronski had other ideas. Diving to his right, Gawronski stopped Oscar Resano from giving the visitors a two-goal lead.
“He stepped into a tough situation and made a great save,” said defender Esteban Suarez. “He was very vocal throughout the match, and I was very impressed with his first game.”
The Owls’ final chance of the game came from an Amir Cohen shot, which was deflected out for a corner kick.
Temple had just one shot on goal during the second half and only two the entire game.
“We were not being creative enough in the final third,” said Suarez.
The Owls finished the game with only eight shots in total. In the first meeting between these two sides, Temple had eight shots on target while scoring three goals.
It’s not good enough,” said Rowland. “One of the areas we identified before the game was creating shots and finding opportunities to get shots off. We didn’t do a good enough job at that tonight.”
This loss was the third straight for the Owls and also their third consecutive home loss this season. Temple’s only win this season came on the road.
Since joining the American Athletic Conference in the 2013 season, the Owls have never lost three straight home games. They haven’t lost three games at home in a single season since 2017. With two home matches remaining, the Owls can only finish with a losing record on home soil this season.
The Owls now face their most challenging test of the season as they finish a four-game homestand against nationally-ranked SMU.
The reigning AAC tournament champions are 3-0 this season. They have outscored their opponents 14-0 in their three games played.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but I am confident we can bounce back,” said Suarez. “Whenever our backs are against the wall, we always step up.”
The Owls will try to upset the Mustangs at the Temple Sports Complex next Saturday. The game is scheduled to kick off at seven and can be seen on ESPN+