Going into the 2017 season, expectations were that the Syracuse Orange men’s soccer team would pick up right where recent vintages had left off. The roster was turning over some talent, but it seemed reasonable to think that SU could return to the NCAA Tournament (at the very least).
Unfortunately, that hope perished on Wednesday night after a loss to the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. Syracuse fought hard, dragging the Tigers into overtime tied 2-2. And despite keeping the score there through two overtimes, they fell on penalty kicks, 4-3.
SU finishes the year with a 6-8-4 record, including an 0-6-2 mark in the ACC. The Orange’s lone win from the start of October was a 2-1 victory over Ohio State on the road. This marks the worst Syracuse soccer campaign since 2011, when the team went 3-12-1.
For some time in this matchup with Clemson, though, it looked as if the team was finding its footing — perhaps mounting a miracle run against the Tigers and back to the postseason via conference title. Tajon Buchanan scored in the 60th minute to give SU the 1-0 lead, though Clemson answered right back within 10 minutes.
The Tigers scored again in the 86th minute to take a 2-1 lead, but Jonhannes Pieles managed the equalizer in the 89th minute to force extra time. That sounds like the stuff of destiny, but sadly wasn’t meant to be.
After the game, coach Ian McIntyre said:
"It was another roller coaster, emotional, intense and exciting Syracuse – Clemson match. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of the result. I'm very proud of this team. The work ethic and passion they showed was terrific. Our young guys did very well tonight. This team doesn't know when it's beaten and almost found a way to win the game."
Though the end of the year was disappointing, it’s worth noting that 16 of the Orange’s 18 games were decided by one goal. So for as much as the W-L record looks like a steep decline, some of that flip is all luck of the draw -- versus talent, which the team manged to cultivate from its young players as well.
There are no guarantees, but perhaps the minor setback ends up positioning Syracuse for a more successful effort once again in 2018.