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Syracuse men’s soccer upsets No. 1 Wake Forest, 2-0

The Orange take down a number one team in the country for the first time ever.

NCAA Soccer: Men’s College Cup-Stanford vs Wake Forest Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange men’s soccer team (5-4-1) hosted perennial national power, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-1-0) this Friday night. They walked away having defended their home pitch against the best team in the country, collecting a 2-0 win. To get a victory is always good. To do it while breaking a year and change ACC winless streak and against the unanimous top team in the country is just downright sweet.

Syracuse trotted out in a 4-3-3, but with some changes on the evening, looking like it may have been specific to counter Wake Forest’s strengths. Simon Triantafillou played as the left back in this one. Djimon Johnson reprised his newly embraced roll of holding midfielder, with Johnathan Hagman and Hugo Delhommelle playing as a pair of box-to-box midfielders.

The Orange came out absorbing some Wake Forest pressure, and started hitting on the counter. They also tried something new, pushing hard in a high press and looking to force the turnover hard. In doing so, everyone front of the back four was man-marking and harassing the Deacs and hitting on the counter off turnovers. We’re not talking full gegen-press, but it was a real quality effort and they were switching it on and off as the game wore on. There was also a definitive defensive shape, almost dropping to a 4-1-4-1 with DJ as the only holder.

The first half had a few individual highlights, including a Ryan Raposo nutmeg, a wonderful slide tackle from Miller, a Tajon Buchanan nutmeg and dance around a few defenders. Overall Sondre Norheim and his solid positioning, along with his ability to complete some wonder-tackles earned him an easy nod as Man of the Match. Or it should have if they gave them out. The Orange finished the first half with four shots on goal and only conceding a big goose-egg. Somehow the best team in the country couldn’t get a shot off. The Orange defense was stepping well, organized and continually blocked the shots from the Orange.

To open the second half, Wake and Syracuse went back and forth, with Wake having a bit of the run of play early on. They pulled the trigger on a ripper in the 52nd minute, leading to a top notch Hendrick Hilpert save which may have been the play of the game, to preserve the clean sheet

“It wasn’t just the individual defending, it was the collective defending. When someone was beaten, it was getting that second body across.” - Coach Ian McIntyre

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The Orange soon took advantage on the counter, Raposo receiving a ball on the left flank, nutmegging a player, dribbling past two and then playing Hilli Goldhar in on goal to open the scoring, 1-0. All seemed great for Syracuse until the 67th minute. Syracuse striker Tajon Buchanan got in an altercation off the ball, which ended with him receiving a straight red card.

To counter the loss of their striker, the Orange switched to Massimo Ferrin as a lone forward and pushing Goldhar off the pitch. In this time John Austin Ricks also checked into the lineup. He eventually moved up top to the #9 spot, based on the personnel. He made the most of the move in a few minutes, when he deflected a pass between the Wake defenders, ran on to it and slotted it near post to give the home side a 2-0 advantage.

“Tonight, we got it right. We played well against an outstanding team.”- Coach Ian McIntyre

Upon going up 2-0, Coach McIntyre brought in some more defenders and parked the hell out of the bus. Overall it was a great effort by the Orange and a historic win for the program, for the first time over a number one squad. The Orange will be back in action on Monday night in an out of conference match against Ohio State at 7pm at SU Soccer Stadium. Former player, and current Toronto FC star goalkeeper, Alex Bono will be on hand for “Alex Bono Bobblehead Night.”