Men’s soccer shuts out Niagara

Men's soccer shuts out Niagara

Syracuse (5-0-1) is off to its best start since 2016 as it next travels to play No. 1 Clemson.
Published: September 15, 2022
Syracuse midfielder Curt Calov (7) fights for possession of the ball from Niagara's Asher Barnes (19) during an ACC men's soccer game at SU Soccer Stadium on Tuesday, September 13, 2022.
Syracuse midfielder Curt Calov (7) fights for possession of the ball from Niagara's Asher Barnes (19) during Tuesday's home win.

No. 16 Syracuse men’s soccer took down Niagara 1-0 Tuesday to improve its record to 5-0-1 and remain undefeated for the season so far.

The match against the Purple Eagles began with the ball oscillating back and forth between the two teams. Neither side could capitalize on opportunities early on.

Niagara (1-4-1) possession was quickly followed by a tight press from Syracuse forward Nathan Opoku and a stout defensive play by Syracuse’s back line. The Orange opened up the scoring in the 13th minute after Opoku followed up a Syracuse corner kick with a precise pass to forward Levonte Johnson for a goal. It marked Johnson’s second goal of the season.

“I saw Nate get the ball and he saw me, so I just tried to connect with the ball as well as I could,” Johnson said.

Niagara attempted to swing momentum in its favor with a counterattack, but the chance was smothered by the Orange back line. It was yet another strong performance from Syracuse’s defenders who were tasked with preserving a one goal lead early on for the second consecutive game.

Defender Olu Oyegunle executed a standout performance in the match by proving he was up to the challenge with several quality tackles and decisive clearances whenever the ball found itself close by.

The Orange was able to keep Niagara on the back foot for the rest of the half by creating several scoring chances that came close to a goal.

Syracuse's Olu Oyegunie (22) kicks the ball up midfield.
Syracuse's Olu Oyegunie (22) kicks the ball up midfield against Niagara.

The second half looked more promising for Niagara. A goal scoring opportunity came to an abrupt halt for the Purple Eagles after a bad pass, but they appeared more aggressive and energized than they did in the previous half.

However, that appearance did not last for long.

Syracuse’s midfield, most notably senior Amferny Sinclair, began to control the ball more and create scoring opportunities for the forwards. On the rare occasion that the ball managed to get into Syracuse’s box, it was either smothered by goalkeeper Russell Shealy or cleared away by the back line.

Niagara’s best chance at tying up the game arrived in the 80th minute when they were given a free kick just outside of the Syracuse box. The ball was launched straight into the Orange wall and immediately cleared out of harm’s way. The final whistle sounded 10 minutes later and with it, Syracuse’s unbeaten streak stayed alive.

Although Syracuse took home the victory, Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre didn’t hesitate to give credit to his opponents.

“They’re a well-coached team and it was a battle out there,” McIntyre said.

McIntyre seems to be up for the challenge as the Orange next face top-ranked Clemson at 7 p.m. Friday in South Carolina.

“Everybody knows who we’re going up against,” McIntyre said. “They’re national champions. They’ve beaten some good teams, but it’ll be a wonderful game. We can be excited about that.”