This stretch of the season was going to be a daunting one from the day the schedule released. There was a Friday game against a very good Notre Dame squad, followed up by a Tuesday affair against a very good UConn squad. It just so happens that we made it out with a 1-1 record. The Orange lost Friday night to #4 Notre Dame 3-0 but were able to rebound for a 1-0 victory against the Huskies on Tuesday.
I personally missed the Notre Dame match, so I can't really dive into detail on what was going on, but the general consensus was a total team effort that came up short against a team vying for the National title. I'll take an early season 3-0 drubbing if it means injecting the squad with a will to not have it happen again.
It may just have, as the Orange walked away with a 1-0 win against the #12/13 ranked UConn team boasting one of the most touted keepers in the country this side of our own Alex Bono in Andre Blake. Blake is considered by many to be the top in his craft in the nation. However good he may be, he can let in a howler from time to time and Alex Halis took advantage of that fact in the 24th minute for the lone goal in the match.
The Orange started off the game in Coach McIntyre's standard 4-2-3-1 and only one change on the lineup card with Brandon Albert taking over for the injured Skylar Thomas at CB. Thomas, who missed the tail end of last season with a ligament tear in his leg will be sidelined for a bit with another soft tissue injury. Reportedly this one isn't that serious, but it did force a change in the established lineup.
Connecticut was attempting to put pressure on early and often, however the Orange looked extremely content to sit in their half, weather the storm and press out hard on the counter attack. With the bus parked in front of goal, UConn didn't get off many quality looks. In the first half, there were technically four shots from the Huskies, but Bono was up to the task, including a highlight reel save off a ripper from the corner of the 18.
Halis' tally came during a stretch of solid play from Syracuse. His finish was off of a deflected rifle from Nick Perea. He made a solid run and ended up in the right place at the right time for the goal. Almost immediately after the Orange found themselves pressing again, with Halis leading the build up and flicking a ball off to Emil Ekblom who struck a beautiful curler that ended inches wide of the far post.
Play opened up in the second half a bit with the Orange more willing to venture forward. Speaking with our own Andrew Pregler, we determined it was a function of space created by Connecticut's need to press forward and score. They were playing a high line all game and ended up pressing hard, opening up space behind themselves as well as between the midfield and defense. Syracuse looked like they had another notch quick into the second half from Chris Nanco as he slotted a spilled Blake save, but it was waved off for a collision with the keeper. The last minutes of the game saw SU back in full fledged defensive mode as UConn pressed with everything they had for the equalizer, but they weathered the storm on the day.
As a side note, it was good to see a bunch of the other athletes floating around the stadium, a Baye sighting (relatively hard to miss, he's pretty tall) and some of the football guys. There seems to be a buzz around this squad this year and its good to see people get out in support. The team is away at Duke this Friday and then returns home on Wednesday for a meetup with the UMass Minutemen at 7pm up on the Hill.