Written By: Owen Boyle
Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports.com
The Owls clinched the third seed in this year’s AAC Men’s Soccer tournament with a huge 2-1 overtime victory against SMU.
Mike Eijgendaal provided the heroics just two minutes into overtime after both teams scored a goal in the final five minutes of regular time.
This was the first time the program collected consecutive overtime wins. Amir Cohen scored the overtime goal in Tuesday’s road match against Memphis.
Prior to tonight’s match, the Owls were provided with some late-night excitement yesterday when they clinched a spot in the AAC tournament. Temple needed a USF loss last night to clinch which came to fruition when Tulsa defeated the Bull’s 1-0.
This is the fourth straight season that the men’s soccer program has made the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The Owls came into the match needing a win over SMU to jump them into third place for the playoffs.
The first chance of the game came for the Cherry and White off of a nice team counterattack. Nigel Griffith cut in on his right foot, but his powerful shot was blocked out for a corner.
Eoin Gawronski was very busy in the first half. His first two saves came off of the feet of Simonsen and Ndoye.
His best save of the half was created from an SMU freekick. Gabriel Costa’s original shot hit the wall but his follow-up was headed for the bottom corner. Gawronski dove to his left to make an outstretched save, keeping the Mustangs off the board.
Gawronski had another difficult save to make when Skage Simonsen fired a shot on goal. The redshirt freshman finished with a program-record six first-half saves.
“He made some big saves early on that kept us in the game,” said coach Brian Rowland. “He delivered a very good performance tonight.”
Amir Cohen started off the second half with a long-range effort that just rolled past the post. This was just the third shot of the game for the Owls.
SMU’s first dangerous chance of the second frame came from a corner kick. Brandon Terwege’s header hit the left post and stayed out.
Nigel Griffith almost gave Temple the lead from close range but Cole Johnson was there to make a great diving save. Griffith’s header off the ensuing corner was also stopped by Johnson.
The Mustang’s most dangerous opportunities were results of corner kicks. This time Papa Ndoye shaved the outside of the post with a header.
Gabriel Costa once again came dangerously close to scoring as he hit the left post with a powerful shot. This was Costa’s fifth shot of the night.
Amir Cohen had a great chance on a breakaway as he chipped the keeper, but an SMU defender was able to clear the ball before it crossed the goal line.
The Owls finally got on the board with a penalty kick goal. Sean Karani was fouled in the box by keeper Cole Johnson. Amir Cohen slotted home the penalty past the diving keeper.
This was Cohen’s team-leading fourth goal this season and his second goal in consecutive games.
“He is a really good player and it is nice playing alongside him,” said Mike Eijgendaal. “He has been doing well recently and hopefully he can keep it up.”
The game seemed to come alive late as SMU found an equalizer just minutes later. Skage Simonsen rifled a shot in off the post to level the score with just under three minutes left.
Temple coach Brian Rowland was issued a red card and given the rest of the night off after arguing a potential foul call in the lead up to the tying goal.
“I certainly saw a foul,” said Rowland. “I was trying to voice my concern and I’m disappointed he thought it was necessary to send me off.’
Eoin Gawronski was forced to make one final save with five seconds left before the game went to overtime.
This was the first OT match for SMU while Temple was playing their second overtime game in a row.
Two minutes into the first extra frame the Owls found the match-winning goal. Amir Cohen’s original shot was stopped by Johnson and the follow-up shot found the roof of the net off the foot of Mike Eijgendaal.
The Dutchman notched his fourth goal of the season while Cohen collected his third point of the night and fifth point in the last two matches.
“We deserved to win,” said Eijgendaal. “It means a lot to the program and I was just fortunate to score the winning goal.”
The Owls played spoiler on SMU’s senior night just like the Mustangs did to Temple last season. SMU defeated the Owls 2-1 in the regular season’s final match last year to eliminate the possibility of Temple hosting a playoff game.
“It feels good to beat a quality opponent,” said Rowland. “It’s good for us in terms of confidence and in progressing as a program.”
The Owls finished with 9 total shots and six on target. The home side had a whopping 22 shots with 9 of them being on goal. They also hit the post three times.
Eoin Gawronski finished the match with 9 saves including six in the first 45 minutes.
The Owls sweep the season series with the Mustangs and finish the regular season 5-4-1. The cherry and white started 1-3 but went on a 4-1-1 stretch to end the season.
Temple will now prepare for a tournament matchup with Tulsa as the two-seeded Golden Hurricane will be looking for their first win over the Owls this season.
“We are two games away from being crowned champions,” said Eijgendaal. “Our goal coming into the season was to win the championship, we just have to keep our good play going.”
This is the program’s first time entering the post-season with a winning record since the 2017 season.
The Owls beat Tulsa 4-1 in their last home game of the season and also tied the Golden Hurricane 0-0 earlier this year.
“We are trending in a positive direction,” said Rowland. “We are aware of the significance of the game which means we have to be at our best.”
The game will be played on the campus of UCF with the Golden Knights securing home-field advantage for the tournament after finishing in first place.
The Owls will take on Tulsa this Thursday at 4.