You wouldn’t think that a lifetime series of only five very recent games could be as hotly contested and back and forth as the one between the No. 7 Syracuse Orange and the No. 3 Clemson Tigers. The sixth iteration of what is turning into quite the battle is coming up Sunday at 1:00pm at Riggs Field, Clemson’s home stadium. The all-time series between the two is at 3-1-1 in favor of the Orange.
Clemson, as a soccer program, has a storied history, including eleven conference titles, three ACC tournament titles and two National Championships. Over the course of the middle of the 2000s, they hit a bit of a rough patch and were relegated to the middle of the table in the ACC. Under the direction of current coach Mike Noonan, the Tigers have steadily climbed the ranks of the ACC again, to spots in the top four and three straight NCAA tournament berths including an ACC tournament title in 2014.
The two squads first met in 2013, Syracuse’s inaugural ACC campaign. This was coincidentally around the time that both programs had their coaches turn the program from solid or middling to true class. That first meeting up at Syracuse Soccer Stadium ended in a 1-0 upset victory for the Orange over the then No. 19 Tigers. The 2014 matchup likewise ended up as a 1-0 Syracuse win, this time down on Riggs Field.
In 2015, thats when things get interesting. The two teams were both having solid campaigns leading into their first matchup in what would be the northern leg of the season series. Syracuse was 9-3-1 on the year, sixteenth in the country and Clemson came in 10-1-2 and ranked fourth in the nation. The match was a back and forth affair that ended 1-0 to Clemson on a 89th minute winner.
During the ACC Tournament, Syracuse would draw the Tigers and would have to travel to the higher seed, setting up a No. 16 SU vs No. 3 Clemson matchup down in South Carolina. The Orange emerged from that 2-0 victors en route to their first ACC Tournament title. Ben Polk, now of Portland Timbers II, netted a brace and sent the Orange on their way to the final.
Because that wasn’t enough fun already, the Orange kept winning their way through the NCAA Tournament. They advanced to their first ever College Cup, to be played at Sporting Park in Kansas City. Of course the only fitting team standing there as opponents for then No. 6 Syracuse was No. 2 Clemson, setting up their first matchup as top 10 teams in the series. The two teams played a very up and down match that ended scoreless. I may be wearing my Orange tinted glasses, but Syracuse probably should have won in regular time as well as dominated the extra time. Alas, that’s why the game is played and Clemson nipped us in the end with a solid penalty display. Andrew Tarbell stood on his head, Clemson moved on to the national title game, and we came back north.
This year, we decided to continue that College Cup match, or so it seemed. The Orange traveled to Clemson again and came out with a 0-0 draw after all was said and done. Again it was a Top 10 matchup, with the Orange in the sixth spot and the Tigers at number eight. Again a back and forth match that didn’t disappoint on action for the scoreline.
This series just keeps producing solid matches and I’m sure Sunday will be no different. The two teams are well coached and evenly matched and should result in a solid game, especially with the Orange back at full strength. The matchup with be at 1:00pm on ACC Network Extra, which I’m assuming means WatchESPN for most people. Probably worth tuning in to this one.