There was a significantly less stomach-churn-inducing football game on Friday on Syracuse's campus.
Syracuse Soccer opened their 2014 campaign at home Friday against the Niagara Purple Eagles. Starting at 2pm up at the soccer stadium, it caused some chaos in my schedule and a lot of time up on the Hill, as I followed it up with the nightcap over in the Dome.
It looks like some of that promise is coming good for the Orange. They took down perennial powerhouse Akron in their last preseason game on a late Nick Perea rebound strike. I know, I know, preseason doesn't mean anything, but as the final tune up, the teams trotted out sides that seem to be close to what we'll see to start the season.
For perspective, Akron has been to the last 10 NCAA tournaments, has a national title from 2010 under then coach Caleb Porter, and was ranked in the top 20 preseason. They're rebuilding a bit this year, but a win is a win no matter how you slice it and SU seemed to have controlled possession pretty well from what I've heard.
The team followed it up with a great showing against Niagara. They controlled possession and dictated the tempo of the game on the way to a 3-0 victory. The Orange were up 1-0 at the break off of a Louis Cross finish, heading in a phenomenal service from Jordan Murrell. Murrell through his career has been known for his service from the back, and definitely didn't disappoint here. Early in the second half, Chris Nanco used his speed on the wing to slot one home and extend the lead. Oyvind Alseth "netted" the final tally when he served a corner up for an own goal off a Niagara defender.
Against Niagara, McIntyre decided to give the newcomers some run, starting four transfers (Cross, Callahan, Syla) or freshmen (Buescher), as well as veteran Noah Rhynhart seeing his first start. The combination worked well enough that Niagara didn't have a single shot on target and Bono wasn't forced into a single save in his clean sheet debut on the year.
St. Mary's made the trip out from the west coast, only to be taken out by a Syracuse team on a mission. Another 3-0 result leaves the Orange at 2-0 on the year. The Gaels ended up with a single shot on goal, to the Orange's seven, converting on three of them.
Emil Ekblom opened the scoring on another service from Jordan Murrell for his second assist on the year. It's good to see last year's leading goal scorer back on the tally sheet. Murrell added a strike of his own off of a free kick just before the half. In the 60th minute, Nick Perea finished a penalty for the last tally of the night. The squad controlled the game again from pretty well the opening kick and is sitting on two wins and two clean sheets.
Nanco, Murrell, Perea and Bono all made the All-Tournament Team, with Nanco taking down the Offensive POT and Murrell the Defensive POT.
Thursday, the Orange head to Rutgers to take on the Knights in a non-conference matchup, starting at 7pm. There should be a stream from the Rutgers side if you're interested and I'll see if I can get a link up for it. The next home match will be the 13th against Notre Dame. That's going to be a barn burner and a hell of a test for the squad.