Going into the match, the Syracuse Orange were definitive underdogs to the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Coming out of the first half, you would have assumed the rankings were swapped. For a good majority of the match, Syracuse looked the better side and controlled the match. Unfortunately for the Orange, the team that looks better doesn’t always win. The Irish were more efficient, taking care of all of their chances in the second half, and putting some clinical finishes past Hendrick Hilpert.
The Orange tactically came out in a 4-3-3, which seemed to work just as well as last match. Jan Breitenmoser and Kamal Miller rejoined the team, healthy again, combining with Len Zeugner and Sondre Nordheim to complete the back four, respectively. The rest of the squad was unchanged from the Hofstra match.
From the outset, the Orange pushed the tempo and for most of the first half, were controlling the pace in the Irish half. By keeping their foot on the gas, they didn’t allow the potent Notre Dame fullbacks to get forward and join their attack, which kept the Irish at bay. Syracuse really needed to capitalize on this in the first half, putting something in the back of the net, but they were stifled on every shot they got off, either off target or by the Notre Dame keeper, Ryan Krutz, standing on his head, with three solid saves.
The Orange forwards, but it any combination of Tajon Buchanan, Ryan Raposo, Severin Soirle, or Hilli Goldhar, were giving the Notre Dame defense fits, but to no avail. The quality of defense was definitely better than what the Orange had seen this season, but they were still able to get shots off, which is promising moving forward. the fluidity and dynamism of this group is something we haven’t seen in a while on the Hill, with all four being very solid on the ball and also capable of exploiting space.
“In order to be good on this level, you’ve got to leave it all out there, emotionally, physically and our guys did that, said SU Coach Ian McIntyre. “There’s a thin margin between losing and winning games, and unfortunately tonight, when [Notre Dame] had their chances... they exposed us and exploited us on those. But overall, I’ll watch the tape, but I think we were pretty good.”
In the second half, it was apparent that Notre Dame was looking to push more. The back and forth action continued until the 53rd minute, when the Irish countered down their right flank. Miller pulled over from center back and aptly shielded the onrushing Paul Rothrock. Trying to get around Miller, Rothrock grabbed his shoulder, pulled him off balance and sent him to ground. The referee inexplicably called the foul in the other direction, leading to a set piece, a clearance for a corner, and ultimately the opening goal. Giving an Irish team that is as proficient as they are in the air so many chances is a dangerous game, and as has happened three other times this year, Felicien Dumas served a beautiful ball in to Patrick Berneski for the opening goal. From here on out, the game opened up.
Soon after, Notre Dame expanded on their lead, off a missed Orange clearance that dropped to the foot of Thomas Ueland, and was put back cross body of Hilpert to make it 2-0. The Orange fought back and drew a penalty in the 66th minute off a handball in the box, Massimo Ferrin slotting it home for his first on the year. Just prior to the penalty, forward Tajon Buchanan went down with what looked to be a fairly substantial knee injury. He was up and walking around on it and on the sideline, but did not return to the match.
The Irish struck again in the 76th minute, off another free kick at the top of the box. Dumas again placed a beautiful ball, top corner, with no chance for Hilpert to save. The Orange continued to attack, getting one back in the 84th from Sondre Norheim who had pressed forward from left back. Towards the end, there were chances for the Orange including a John-Austin Ricks ripper from the top of the box that went just high, leaving the final 3-2.
The Orange for 70 minutes of the game looked the better team, attacking well and getting chances, but the lack of finishing and the clinical nature of Notre Dame on set pieces really told the tale on the night. The effort tonight against a very good Irish team was promising for the rest of the campaign. If all of our ACC games are played as well as the Orange did tonight, we’ll be seeing Syracuse back in the postseason this year. The Orange visit Cornell on Monday night, in an out of conference matchup at 7 p.m. ET on Berman Field in Ithaca. The match will be streamed on ESPN+.