Division 1 teams across the country kicked off preparations for the upcoming season with the first day of full training on Tuesday morning.
For Temple, it was the first day on the field together for a team that has turned over 10 players since going unbeaten in its first season back in the city at the Temple Sports Complex while reaching double digits in wins for the second straight season and fourth time in five years.
“Right now we’re looking for the chemistry between players and who works well together,” said MacWilliams, who is entering his 18th season at the helm. “We’re looking at that to formulate a formation and then I think once we have that formation, what players fit into that formation.”
He’ll also need to figure out how to find goals now that Jorge Gomez Sanchez is gone. The Spaniard was involved in 17 of the teams 23 goals last season and found the back of the net 27 times over his two years with the Owls. Other key departures include captain Matt Mahoney, who plays with Bethlehem Steel FC, Carlos Moros Gracia, Stefan Mueller and Kevin Klett. Gracia and Mueller are both playing professionally now in Europe.
“He’s one player that’s tough to just replace one v one,” MacWilliams said of Gomez Sanchez, who was drafted but went unsigned by Vancouver Whitecaps. “So what we’re looking for is different players that can do that, returning players from last year you have Joonas (Jokinen), you have Lukas Fernandes, you have Jordan Wix Rauch and then you bring in players like Thibault (Candia) and Alan Camacho and you still have guys like Albert Moreno.”
Jokinen, a senior from Helsinki, Finland, was second on the team last year with three goals and added six assists while forming a dangerous partnership with Gomez Sanchez.
“If anything I’m going to put a little bit more pressure on the other guys,” Jokinen said. “We’ll see. Preseason is a time to figure everything out and see who’s going to play where.”
Canadian Alan Camacho has plenty of goal-scoring experience, having led the U.S. Soccer Development Academy in goals with 29 at the U16 level in 2015-16. He’s also already made his professional debut with Whitecaps FC 2 in USL play. Candia, meanwhile, comes to Philadelphia from France, where he spent time playing for Angers SCO. They, along with Iceland U19 center back Darri Sigthorsson, continue to bring an international flavor to the team.
“It’s really good to see some different styles of soccer and it’s interesting to see all of these kids from different countries,” said German midfielder Hermann Doerner.
Three transfers, Frenchmen Divin Fula Luzolo from Hawaii Pacific, Michael Samnik from North Georgia and Scottish defender Jamie Pick from Coastal Bend Community College have also been brought in. Newcomers from the U.S. include speedster Justin Hahn, who spent time with the D.C. United Academy, California forward Adrian Marmot, Ohio defender Max Pochobradsky and defender Kevin Bernsten of Warrington, Pa.
Even with so many new faces - and a schedule that includes visits from top programs like UConn, Penn State, SMU and South Florida on the schedule - the goal remains the same.
“We’re coming off, three of my four years we’ve had ten plus wins, so it’s really just trying to build on that,” said fifth-year senior goalkeeper Alex Cagle. “We definitely want to make the tournament. I can’t wait to make that a thing this year.”