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New Temple head coach faces old rival in spring match against Saint Joseph’s

Brian Rowland and Don D’Ambra played for rivals in professional indoor soccer

Matt Ralph

Brian Rowland’s first match against a Philadelphia opponent since taking over the men’s soccer program at Temple will rekindle a rivalry that dates back to his days playing indoor for the Baltimore Blast.

Rowland was a goalkeeper for the Blast from 2003-2006 while Saint Joseph’s University head coach Don D’Ambra was the star forward and head coach of the Philadelphia Kixx.

“We didn’t know each other personally, but we definitely knew of each other,” D’Ambra said.

D’Ambra ended up playing 14 seasons with the Kixx while Rowland moved on to outdoor soccer with Crystal Palace Baltimore before joining Sasho Cirovski’s staff at the University of Maryland. D’Ambra took over the Saint Joseph’s program after retiring from the Kixx in 2010.

Rowland was named the head coach at Temple in December after the contract was not renewed for David MacWilliams, who coached the Kixx for four seasons in the late ‘90s before taking the job with the Owls.

MacWilliams is one of three long-term college coaches in Philadelphia to be replaced in recent years. Rob Irvine was hired at La Salle in 2016 after 29-year head coach Pat Farrell retired and Rudy Fuller recently stepped down after two decades at Penn to take a job in the athletic administration; his assistant Brian Gill was hired to take his place.

Temple and St. Joe’s play tonight (8 p.m. at Temple Sports Complex) for the first time since the Hawks won 3-1 on opening night of the fall season at Sweeney Field last August. Matt Crawford, one of eight seniors on the team last fall, scored a hat trick in the game. Tonight’s game is the second of a double header at Temple that includes an exhibition match at 6 between the school’s women’s teams.

The men’s game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday as part of the annual Philly Soccer Six Play Day at Penn Park, but was rescheduled because of the weather forecast.

St. Joe’s has played one spring game so far, losing 3-0 to LIU Brooklyn. Their game against Mercer County College last weekend was canceled.

“Our guys were not as sharp as they would be in the fall season,” D’Ambra said of the LIU match. “The level of training has gotten higher since then.”

Temple has three spring games under their belt, drawing 3-3 to Rutgers, losing 5-0 to Lehigh and 1-0 to George Mason all on the road. The St. Joe’s game will be Rowland’s first as a head coach in Philadelphia.

“There’s a long history of soccer in the city,” Rowland said. “Any time you have this number of schools that can be highly competitive it’s great to be able to play each other.”

Like D’Ambra, Rowland has lost a number of players who were on the team last fall, including 10 seniors and leading scorer Thibault Candia, who transferred to UC Santa Barbara after leading the team with six goals and an assist in his first and only season as an Owl.

“I’m dealing with a group that is not only learning my style of play but a lot are getting their first taste of the college game,” Rowland said. “We have good days and bad.”

Results typically aren’t that important during the spring exhibition season and while the annual Soccer Six Play Day doesn’t count in the standings toward a city championship — Villanova and La Salle shared the championship last fall — it’s still a chance for bragging rights. Villanova is slated to play Penn at 7:30 p.m. and Drexel and La Salle at 2 p.m. on Saturday.