With the score tied at 1-1 and time running down on the clock, Temple captain Lukas Fernandes got free in the box and snapped a header into the goal to lift the Owls to a win the hometown announcers on the ACC Network weren’t wrong to call a massive one for the visitors 670 miles from home.
“It was a couple plays before that I was in the box open at the back post and I told my teammate Mikael Borger to look for a cross at the back post because I’d be getting on the end of it and he told me after the game that once he got the ball he was thinking about shooting it but he thought about what I told him and crossed it to me,” Fernandes said. “After I scored it it was just pure joy. It’s been a tough year for us but things are starting to roll in the right direction.”
The tough part of the season Fernandes referred to was the three shutout losses to start the year and another shutout loss to start their conference schedule, but in recent weeks the tide has started to turn with three straight wins over Top 50 RPI ranked teams Memphis on the road, South Florida at home and Louisville on the road Tuesday night.
“We had some growing pains in the beginning of the season where I thought we learned some lessons against really good competition,” second-year head coach Brian Rowland said. “But we scheduled a difficult schedule this year knowing that we would challenge our group with the idea that we want to play a national schedule and compete with those kind of programs and take our program to the next level.”
The Cards were No. 13 in the RPI and are the highest profile team the Owls have beaten in a regular season game in quite some time.
“In my two years we’ve had a couple big wins, but I think we’re becoming a team where it’s not just about finding a way to create a match-up that will get a result,” Rowland said. “We feel we’re getting to a place as a program where we can play our game against anybody, control games and have opportunities of our own.”
Oh captains, our captains.— Temple Men's Soccer (@Temple_MSoc) October 23, 2019
Go a with those header goals to give us our third straight W pic.twitter.com/1U79i7Szes
Temple did just that against the Cardinals in one of the finest venues for college soccer in the country, possessing the ball on the offensive end, limiting chances on defense and taking their shots when they came. After a scoreless first half, French defender Pierre Cayet rose up to head home a corner kick from defender Esteban Suarez to put the visitors in front.
They conceded for just the 12th time this season in the 75th minute, but Fernandes, a senior from Rochester, N.Y., was able to deliver his 10th career goal to decide the game. Sean Karani, a Sporting Kansas City alum who is tied with Fernandes for the team lead in goals with three, was credited with a secondary assist on the play.
“It was a huge win for us but I think the next win is our biggest achievement,” Fernandes said. “So after the USF game, we were already looking forward to Louisville and after Louisville we’re already looking forward to UConn on Saturday. I think the next win is going to be our most important, most valuable for us but obviously Louisville is a great program, they have been for a while now but our season’s not over so we need to keep pushing.”
The Louisville win evened Temple’s overall record at 6-6-1 and strengthened their resume for a possible NCAA Tournament bid that would be the program’s first since 1985. The Owls entered the week ranked No. 43 in the RPI and moved up to No. 35 after the win. After hosting UConn on Saturday, they’ll travel to face Tulsa on Nov. 1 and end the season back at home against SMU on Election Night.