The Syracuse Orange gutted out an impressive 1-1 draw against the No. 2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Friday after losing Miles Robinson in the sixth minute.
An errant elbow in the box was all it took in the sixth minute and the Orange were on the ropes against the Deacs. Miles Robinson, the standout defender for the Orange, had gone up for a challenge in the box off a corner and was assessed a straight red card, by referee Peter Dhima, for an errant elbow that caught Sam Raben above the shoulders. Dare I say it seemed a real soft red, deserved foul and possible yellow, but for a straight red off an inadvertent push looking the other way off the ball seems rough. Either way, the Orange were playing 10-v-11 for the rest of the match.
Prior to the incident, the game was back and forth with both teams feeling things out in what was sure to be a defensive matchup. The Orange were without starting midfielder Mo Adams, who was sitting out with yellow card accumulation. The loss of Adams as a true defensive midfielder and pivot point for the team forced a few bodies out of their standard positions even before the squad went down a man. Slotting in fellow freshman John-Austin Ricks to the lineup and pushing Oyvind Alseth in to the center of the pitch worked fine for the most part, but with Robinson out, it forced Ricks backwards to bring three at the back again.
The first half was quite hectic for the remaining time, as you can imagine. In the 23rd minute, Wake broke through, on an over-ball that for all intents and purposes looked like it was shut down, as the ball came in, until Jon Bakero’s run went from covered to unmarked. Liam Callahan had his man marked over the top, but Kevin Politz was able to nod the ball down to Bakero, whom Kamal Miller lost after the initial run. He proceeded to slot it home for the 1-0 lead.
The team moved to a man marking system for the most part, so you saw numerous times where Johannes Pieles, Chris Nanco or Kenny Lassiter were pulled back deeper than the midfield. It was a strange look but effective and the Orange were able to hold their ground. In the 35th minute, Miller proceeded to make up for his prior missed mark, slotting home the equalizer. Callahan served a ball into the box, which proceeded to pinball in and around the area, dropping to the feet of Miller who was able to put it away for his third on the year.
Over the course of the second half, the Orange were much more organized, assuming thanks to a team talk by Coach Mac at the half, and were able to lock it down and see out the match. Both teams had some solid chances in the period, neither resulting in a change to the scoreboard. The Orange hunkered in and did their best parked bus impression, which worked out for the best. They weathered 21 Wake Forest shots to their 6, and Hendrik Hilpert handled 6 of the 7 shots that they put on target including a beautiful save when he was shielded in the 88th minute that may have saved the match for the Orange. I’d have to give the MotM to Hilpert tonight. He came up huge when he was needed.
It was a valiant effort by the Orange and a hell of a point salvaged off of a rough situation. I can’t imagine the red card is held up, but even without Miles, the Orange should be in a place to handle the first round ACC Tournament match that they will host on Wednesday, November 2nd. Syracuse will be the #5 seed and host the last place Pittsburgh Panthers in the first round of the tournament. The path after that match would lead to an away game against our seemingly standard tournament opponents, the Clemson Tigers who earned the #4 seed line.
Here’s to hoping we catch as many of you all out on Wednesday as we can out at SU Soccer Stadium. Should be a 7 p.m. kick.