A short-handed La Salle team with only one player on the bench needed some last minute heroics from Hayden Criollo to get by city rival Temple in a chilly spring friendly on Sunday afternoon.
With the score tied at one a piece, Norwegian defender Jesper Lenander got the ball to Criollo, who did the rest of the work with a fine finish from a tight angle in the box. The goal was the first of the spring for Criollo, a rising senior from Union, N.J. who has three goals during the regular season in his first three seasons.
“We’ve been working on a lot of things this spring as a team, so it was good to get a win against a good Philly team,” Criollo said. “Personally, I’ve been working on making more effective runs and staying composed in the box. Today, I was able to put one in the net with the help of my teammates.”
The win was the first of the spring for the Explorers after a 3-1 loss at Penn State, a scoreless draw with Seton Hall and a 2-1 loss to Drexel last weekend at the Philly Soccer Six Play Day event.
“We weren’t sharp, but our approach was better than the week prior against Drexel,” head coach Rob Irvine said. “The focal point of the spring is it’s a better opportunity to evaluate guys more in-depth and you get to try some things. Results aren’t as emphasized.”
Irvine lost 10 seniors to graduation from last year’s squad that went 8-9-1 but shared the Philly Soccer Six title with Villanova with wins over Penn and Drexel. His lone returner from the senior class — Mike Liska — was granted an additional year of eligibility after missing all but one game his junior year.
The third-year head coach has a big class coming in this fall with 14 newcomers expected to fill out the roster, which on Sunday was especially thin with three players out with injuries.
The winter-like conditions Sunday afternoon also contributed to a sloppy affair for both teams.
“We struggled to connect passes,” Irvine said.
Even conceding a lot of the possession, Temple midfielder Hermann Doerner’s deflected goal was all the Owls could muster. With a half-hour left in the match, the Explorers mounted their comeback.
Mathias Patino found the head of Giovanni Cristiano Aiello-Pang on a corner kick to tie the game and the Explorers continued to put pressure every time they got the ball back through Criollo and Soji Olatoye, who had three goals and a pair of assists as a freshman in the fall.
The loss for the Owls followed a thrilling 1-0 win over Saint Joseph’s last Friday and ended their spring season. They drew Rutgers 3-3 to start the spring and lost 5-0 to Lehigh and 1-0 to George Mason. La Salle closes out their spring on the road with shortened games against Princeton and Fairleigh Dickinson this Saturday.
Both teams should look slightly different in the fall as they each welcome large recruiting classes and hope to fill holes left by departing players. The Owls lost eight regular starters from last year’s team either to graduation or transfer.