No. 3 Syracuse soccer’s unbeaten run ends in 1-0 loss to Virginia

No. 3 Syracuse soccer's unbeaten run ends in 1-0 loss to Virginia

The feisty match totaled nine yellow cards and Syracuse midfielder ejection.
Published: September 25, 2022
SU Men's soccer team huddles during the Niagara game
Syracuse men's soccer team huddles during a match against Niagara on Sept. 13.

For just under a month, Syracuse’s men’s soccer team had been building up an unbeaten streak of eight games. It all came to an end in the 85th minute of Saturday’s match against Virginia in the SU Soccer Stadium.

Virginia forward Leo Alfonso’s dagger was scored with just five minutes remaining in the game, but the goal proved to be too much for the Orange to recover from.

“It was an emotional, physical, ACC game. The guys on both teams left it all out there tonight,” head coach Ian McIntyre said.

During the opening minutes of the game, it looked like both teams would eventually find the back of the net. The ball made its way to Virginia’s side of the pitch often thanks to the play of Syracuse midfielder Giona Leibold.

Leibold set up a Syracuse free kick by drawing a foul just outside the box, but it was cleared away by Virginia’s defenders. The Cavaliers followed up with a counter-attack of their own, but it was halted in its tracks by Syracuse goalkeeper Russell Shealy.

Then the cards came out. First, a yellow card was shown to Virginia defender Reese Miller in the 8th minute after a sloppy challenge outside of Syracuse’s box. The next minute, the referee saw fit to give Syracuse midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski a yellow card after making a tackle.

A great scoring opportunity for Syracuse came in the 10th minute, but Leibold put too much power on the shot and the ball bounced off of the crossbar.

Soon the whistle began to blow more and more, and the calls going against the Orange increased. Virginia took advantage of this with several chances that came close to giving them a lead.

One of the most critical moments of the game occurred in the 21st minute, when Kocevski received his second yellow card of the game after a bad attempt to seize the ball from Virginia. The second yellow card meant that he was removed from the game, leaving Syracuse one man down with still an hour left to play in the match.

Virginia pressed on to try and get a goal before the end of the half but were stymied by the exceptional play of Syracuse’s back line.

“I’m a little bit disappointed with the number of yellow cards,” Coach McIntyre said.

The referee had barely sounded the whistle to start the second half when he felt compelled to blow it once more. A foul called on a challenge by Syracuse defender Christian Curti was closely followed by a yellow given to his teammate Lorenzo Boselli.

In the 62nd minute, a Virginia through ball made its way past the Syracuse defense and found Virginia midfielder Asparuh Slavov. It took an incredible save from Shealy at his near post to keep the score tied at zeros.

Two minutes later, a second foul called on Curti procured a yellow card for him.

Virginia led the game in cautions and ejections with 6 (all yellow cards) of the 10.

Slowly, Virginia began to get more and more chances. It was a rare sight to see the ball on their own side of the pitch. In the 83rd minute, a cross into the Syracuse box led to a header by Virginia midfielder Amari Salley, which floated just over the crossbar. At that point, it seemed that the Orange might be able to walk off with a draw for the night.

Virginia’s 85th minute winning goal dashed this hope. Cavaliers forward Leo Afonso made his way down the right side of the pitch, cut inside Syracuse’s box and lifted the ball just over the outstretched arm of Shealy into the top left corner of the net.

The Orange had a good chance two minutes later inside of Virginia’s box, but Leibold’s shot missed just over the crossbar.

“We did well for playing a man down. It was unlucky at the end, but that’s the nature of the sport,” Curti said.

The Orange will look to bounce back from this loss when they hit the the road to face Virginia Tech (1-6-1) on Friday at 6 p.m.

“Our guys were terrific. I know we lost a soccer match tonight, but I’m very proud of our group,” Coach McIntyre said.