Owls working on transition, health ahead of USF

There was one area the men’s soccer team worked on Wednesday afternoon in its preparation for the University of South Florida on Saturday night: the transition game.

“South Florida is a team that’s very good in transition,” coach David MacWilliams said. “We wanted to simulate a session where you’re keeping the ball, and then all of a sudden it’s played down to the other end of the field, and you have to get back behind the ball.”

Defending against a quick reversal of play will be key if the Owls are to win their first road match this fall. One of the key guys who could be back in Temple’s lineup is sophomore defender Stefan Mueller, who has missed the last three matches due to stomach pain.

MacWilliams said Mueller’s presence would greatly help come Saturday.

“We have to see how things go [this week],” MacWilliams said. “But if he’s able to play, it definitely strengthens our team.”

Freshman midfielder Filipe Liborio, who missed Temple’s last match against Cincinnati, was running around with a brace and also looks primed to play down in Florida.

In terms of the two Finnish players, freshmen forwards Olli Tynkkynen and Joonas Jokinen, MacWilliams said that Tynkkynen is closer to 100 percent than Jokinen, but didn’t rule out both of them playing at some capacity against USF.

 No. 22 USF looms

USF, which is currently ranked No. 22 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, carries a 5-3 overall record, and beat Connecticut 1-0 in an overtime win in its opening American Athletic conference match on Sept. 27.

When it comes to the Bulls, coach David MacWilliams said their tradition and overall quality makes them tough to play.

“They’re very quick and athletic,” MacWilliams said.  “They’re a tough team in transition, a tough team to break down … they’ve made the [NCAA Tournament seven] years in a row, so you’re going up against a lot of history and tradition there.”

The Bulls ended the Owls’ season last year by beating them 1-0 at Ambler in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament. MacWilliams said revenge will partially be a factor going into Saturday, but getting a result down in Florida is more important because of their non-conference results.

“Getting beat by them bothered us,” MacWilliams said.  “But I think right now, we’re in a stage where we just want to win games and get results … We just want to be able to play well and get a result down there.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Corbett Stadium.

Owls clinch first-round bye

Yesterday, after a delayed Southern Methodist-Central Florida game ended in a Mustangs victory, Temple was officially announced as the No. 6 seed in this weekend’s American Athletic Conference tournament.

With all the conference’s seedings finalized, Temple (14-15,8-10) will play in a quarterfinal contest against No. 3 South Florida (18-11,13-5) at 8pm on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The game will appear on ESPN3.

The Owls have lost both matchups against the Bulls this season. Most recently, Temple lost in the final seconds at the Liacouras Center on Feb. 22. In that game, Bulls’ sophomore guard Courtney Williams recorded a career-high 35 points, and was honored as the conference’s player of week in the following days.

Leading up to the tournament, Temple has won two consecutive games by 10 points or more, while USF is rolling with a five-game winning streak, including its most recent upset against a nationally ranked Rutgers team.