Syracuse men’s soccer bounces back with defensive effort

SU men’s soccer bounces back with defensive solidity

The Orange topped Colgate after an early goal to improve their home record.

Syracuse's Josh Belluz (33) and Colgate's Charlie Yates (27) collide for the ball during a non-conference game on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at SU Soccer Stadium.
Kayla Breen
Syracuse’s Josh Belluz and Colgate’s Charlie Yates collide for the ball at SU Soccer Stadium.

The Syracuse men’s soccer team earned a 1-0 victory over Colgate following an early goal and defensive resilience at SU Soccer Stadium.

Going into the match, the No. 18 team in the nation looked to bounce back from a tough run of form, including a 3-5 loss at Duke and a 1-2 loss at Cornell. Under a picturesque sunset at the 7 p.m. kickoff, the Syracuse team did just that.

The first 10 minutes of the game were uneventful as both sides felt each other out. As the Orange settled into the game, their quality began to show. They consistently linked passes together in the defense and midfield, opening spaces for the forwards to break free.

In these early moments of the game, head coach Ian McIntyre’s rotations in the squad were paying off. Graduate defenders Pablo Pedregosa and Buster Sjoberg, who have not started often this year, introduced great composure and assertiveness to the defense.

Their buildup finally bore fruit in the 13th minute as senior forward Michael Suski found himself in a threatening position on the left wing before smashing the ball into the danger area. The relatively dull crowd burst to life as sophomore forward Nicholas Kaloukian poked home Suski’s ball, giving Syracuse an early lead. Suski’s game-winning assist came on his first start of the year.

Colgate's Mason Pahule (8) and Syracuse's Felipe D'Agostini (11) compete for possession of the ball during a non-conference game on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at SU Soccer Stadium.
Colgate’s Mason Pahule and Syracuse’s Felipe D’Agostini compete for possession of the ball.

“I think I get more comfortable out there as the game goes along,” Suski said. “It’s tougher to get subbed in towards the end of the game.” Suski also explained that the start allowed him to settle into the game and show his qualities to their fullest potential.

Cuse finished the first half with nine shots compared to Colgate’s two, highlighting the disparity in opportunities in the opening 45 minutes.

The second half continued similarly to the first. With a leg up in the game, the boys in orange and blue confidently managed the play. The pop of the ball following crisp passes could be heard ringing out in the cool night air as the team kept possession, swinging the ball from side to side.

Colgate was forced to sit back and let SU dominate possession, packing eight or even nine defenders in the box to minimize Syracuse opportunities.

Despite controlling the game, Syracuse could have been more clinical in finishing their chances in the final third. The Cuse defense stood firm, however, and sophomore keeper Jahiem Wickham refused to give up their lead. A critical save in the 59th minute from the keeper made the three points possible.

“It was just amazing,” Wickham said. “It’s a team sport so, you know, I have to thank the people in front of me who helped me do it. We want to just move on from there.”

In the end, with the resilience of Wickham and the defense, Cuse saw out a 1-0 win, allowing only five shots throughout the game.

“I think it’s the willingness from us to defend from the front,” coach McIntyre said. “Our back three, Pablo, Buster, and Gabi (Mikina) were terrific tonight.”

With the victory, the home team improved to a 5-0-1 record at SU Soccer Stadium, showcasing the fortress it has become.

“It’s fun for us to play here on nights like this. You know, normally, when we are playing Colgate, it is sleeting and miserable,” McIntyre said. “We love playing in front of our crowd. We love playing on this field.”

Syracuse will look to improve on their away record of 0-2-2 on Friday. The team travels to face ACC rival No. 13 North Carolina, the “in-form team in our conference,” according to McIntyre.

Syracuse men's soccer fans celebrate a goal against Colgate on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at SU Soccer Stadium.
Syracuse men’s soccer fans celebrate a goal against Colgate.