Syracuse picks apart Notre Dame in 1-0 win, extends unbeaten streak to five games

SU men's soccer picks apart Notre Dame

Forward Nathan Opoku's tough offense proved successful with a key assist to lone goal.
Published: September 10, 2022
Gioana Leibold, #17, celebrates his goal against Notre Dame. 09-10-2022. Taken by Charlotte Little.
Syracuse's Gioana Leibold (17) celebrates his goal in the ACC season opener against Notre Dame on Saturday at SU Soccer Stadium.

Syracuse men’s soccer took down Notre Dame 1-0 Saturday in its ACC season opener, extending its current win streak to five games.

The first whistle had barely sounded and Syracuse was already on Notre Dame’s side of the pitch. It was a sign of things to come. Driven by the attack play of defender Noah Singleman and forward Nathan Opoku, the Orange was able to get off to a great start with several chances right out of the gate.

On the rare occasion that the Fighting Irish were able to possess the ball early on, Syracuse’s defense led by senior Christian Curti found no trouble in taking it right back. This combination of great defensive pressure from the Orange and lackluster offensive performance from the Irish led to 22 shots on goal for Syracuse.

In the 22nd minute, these opportunities culminated in SU midfielders Giona Leibold‘s goal off a quality pass from Opoku.

It was not the last time Opoku’s offense would help the Orange this game.

The Ghana native found himself at the center of many Syracuse opportunities thanks in large part to his physical style of play and tight control when on the ball. Opoku downplayed his assist and rather stressed his efforts to tie up his marker.

“Helping my teammates come so that we all play together really worked out, and that’s why we won,” Opoku said.

Immediately after the goal, Notre Dame tried to swing momentum in its favor with an attacking move into the Syracuse box, but the chance was stopped by Syracuse midfield Camden Holbrook. Notre Dame was able to create another scoring chance after but was smothered by the defensive play of Curti.

Players celebrate Leibold's goal against Notre Dame. 09-10-2022.
Syracuse soccer players embrace after scoring a goal against Notre Dame.

Aside from the one Syracuse goal, Notre Dame goalkeeper Bryan Dowd had a good first half performance, showcasing his quick reflexes whenever the Orange made an appearance in his box. The Orange counter-attacked several times, but couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.

Just before the end of the first half, the Fighting Irish got its first shot of the match in the 44th minute, which was easily stopped by the Syracuse goalkeeper Russell Shealy.

The Fighting Irish was never able to recover from their lackluster performance in the first half of the match. The second half was once again dominated by Syracuse scoring chances on one side of the pitch and defensive stops on the other.

Syracuse’s Singleman added to an already strong performance with several good crosses into the box. Opoku continued to shine when on the ball, making crisp passes and showing good awareness.

In the final minute of the match, the Fighting Irish finally started to look like itself. Notre Dame was able to create a corner kick after getting its second goal shot of the game, but the chance came to an end through the gritty defensive work of the Syracuse back line.

Head coach Ian McIntyre didn’t mince words about his team’s upcoming match against Niagara at 7 p.m. Tuesday at SU Soccer Stadium.

Julius Rauch, #9, battles for the ball against Notre Dame player.
Syracuse's Julius Rauch (9) battles for possession of the ball against Notre Dame's Josh Ramsey (18).

“It’s the biggest game of the season on Tuesday,” McIntyre said. “We’ve got a short turnaround and the success of the team will be the ability to win the mid-week games between big emotional games.”

Opoku said he hopes the team can feed off the Notre Dame win to extend the win streak to six.

“Right about now, we’ve won four games, tied one, and we want to keep the unbeaten run going. So it’s a win for us, and that’s the only mentality we have right now,” Opoku said.