Syracuse men’s soccer ties after another defensive showing

Syracuse men’s soccer ties after another defensive showing

The Orange tied with No.21 Clemson after coach McIntyre opted to field a very defensive side.

Defender Noah Singelmann (#4) tackles the ball out of the feet of Clemson's Arthur Duquenne (#33).
Defender Noah Singelmann tackles the ball out of the feet of Clemson’s Arthur Duquenne.

Syracuse men’s soccer played out a captivating 1-1 draw at SU Soccer Stadium against No.21 Clemson on Sunday.

The Orange were unable to breach the Tiger’s defense, aside from a masterful free kick by graduate defender Buster Sjoberg. However, SU certainly has some positives to take away from the game as the team played with grit and unity.

Despite a rainy day, over 1,500 Syracuse faithful were out in full force, with the stands packed full of people of all ages; a sea of orange and blue, umbrellas in hand, eager to watch the top-25 matchup.

Looking to bounce back from a loss against unranked Temple, Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre opted to field a very defensive side, featuring junior Olu Oyegunle, Sjoberg, and senior Gavin Wigg in defense, with other defensive-minded players featuring in midfield, such as senior Gabriel Mikina, graduate Josh Belluz and graduate Noah Singelmann.

“We had a game plan, and we stuck to it,” captain Sjoberg said. Sjoberg also noted his pride in the team staying strong throughout the testing match, “it was a great effort.”

At some points in the game, the Orange set up with six or even seven in the back line; the aforementioned plan seemed to be to sit back and absorb pressure from the potent Tiger’s attack.

“I thought we defended really well today. Gavin (Wigg) came in today and was terrific, Mikina, Olu, Buster as well,” said McIntyre. “You need your players to step up in these big moments.”

With this defensive emphasis, the Syracuse midfield was sometimes left entirely vacant. This structure provided many problems for the Orange as they struggled to hold possession throughout the game.

Defender Buster Sjoberg (#19) celebrates his free-kick goal, surrounded by teammates Nate Edwards (#18), Jeorgio Kocevski (#8) and Josh Belluz (#33).
Griffin Uribe Brown
Defender Buster Sjoberg celebrates his free-kick goal, surrounded by teammates.

Clemson, on the other hand, were able to keep the ball quite comfortably, although they never created any clear-cut chances. The Orange’s defense remained resolute, battling for every ball and frustrating the opposing team.

Through the first 35 minutes of the game, neither side had any meaningful shots. This changed as players got more tired.

Unfortunately, shortly after the start of the second half, disaster struck for the Orange. After a great chance for SU, Clemson broke with speed and numbers. The resulting goal dribbled over the line following a finishing touch from Arthur Duquenne.

Following the Tiger goal, the Syracuse team came under immense pressure as Clemson’s confidence grew. More great defending from the Orange helped keep the difference at one. Sophomore goalkeeper Jahiem Wickham was also called into action on a few instances, showing his composure and ability to rush off his line.

Heading into the last 20 minutes of the game, McIntyre introduced a few offensive-minded substitutions to give Syracuse a chance to score an equalizer. With more creative players on the pitch, Syracuse fans’ noise levels grew as a series of quality interplay between the likes of graduate midfielder Felipe D’Agostini, senior midfielder Lorenzo Boselli and senior midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski, began.

Eventually, this shift in mindset paid off, as a series of rapid-fire passes between D’Agostini, Boselli, Kocevski, and sophomore forward Nicholas Kaloukian earned the Orange a free kick just outside the box.

Noise rang out from the crowd as Buster Sjoberg stepped up and sent the ball into the upper-left corner.

Sjoberg nonchalantly trotted to the corner as the entire Syracuse bench rushed the pitch to celebrate the unique moment. In the stands, every fan was on their feet, elated to witness the equalizer.

“I practiced a couple days ago, always the same routine, five steps back, and take a deep breath,” Sjoberg described calmly after the match. “We could have had more than we got.”

The last few minutes of the game saw a few opportunities for both sides, but with no clear-cut chances due to some assured goalkeeping by Wickham, thus sealing a promising comeback result for the Orange.

“It’s a huge point,” said Kocevski after the match. “They are a top side just like us. Obviously, we’d love to win, but the tie is not the worst thing.”

Syracuse next continues their stretch of home fixtures with a matchup against Yale on Wednesday.