The Syracuse Orange men’s soccer team opened up the 2020 season with a 3-2 loss against the second ranked Pittsburgh Panthers. Some generally solid play from a very unanticipated roster from the Orange leaves some promise on this young and short season.
Coach Ian McIntyre trotted out a quite unexpected lineup, eschewing his previously favored 3-5-2 for a 4-3-3 set. One of the big surprises was the starting centerback combination of sophomore Abdi Salim and freshman Kyle Gruno, in lieu of a more experienced pairing. Beyond that, freshmen DeAndre Kerr and Jeorgio Kocevski started on the wing and in midfield respectively. The youthful lineup was able to take it to Pitt for a good chunk of the game with high pressure and promising buildup play.
Through the first half, the Orange played the game they needed to play for the first thirty minutes. They pushed the pressure on Pitt and controlled the tempo. As the half wore on, it seemed to drag a bit for the Orange, eventually culminating in a 39th minute Velijko Petkovic goal past Christian Miesch, giving Pitt the halftime lead. Miesch had a decent half, with two saves.
Coming out of the half, Syracuse continued pressing high and working the Pitt defenders into some bad passes and turnovers. The pressure resulted in a number of Syracuse chances, but only a single shot in the initial volley, with the Pitt goalkeeper, Nico Campuzano pulled off his line, resulting in a goal line clearance from a defender on a blistering Jeorgio Kocevski shot.
The Syracuse breakthrough with the equalizer at 1-1, in the 66th minute was downright beautiful. From Manuel Busquets and Deandre Kerr on a hustle play to Triantafillou winning the ball back, and dropping to Kocevski, who executed a beautiful Cruyff turn, then hoofed a perfect cross to Hilli Goldhar’s head to put the ball into the bottom right corner out of Campuzano’s reach.
Back and forth the Orange and Panthers kept pushing the tempo and challenging each other’s keepers. Syracuse looks to break hard on offense and looks good doing it, but they can get caught out. Just that happened in the 72nd minute, as Sondre Norheim came up to join the break and Miesch was beat near post by Petkovic. Almost as soon as the whistle blew, the Orange were back on the attack, with Norheim settling a cross right to midfielder Noah Singlemann for the equalizer in the 73rd minute.
The Pitt forwards were definitely working to stretch a taxed Syracuse backline, especially an inexperienced pairing that was out there in Abdi Salim and Kyle Gruno. Gruno had a few freshman moments as he got tired, but overall impressed in his debut. Salim really showed up with numerous saving sliding tackles and some great footwork. Even late, he played physical and kept some dangerous Pitt attackers at bay through the end of regular time.
Extra time started poorly for the Orange, with Luther Archimede picking up his second yellow, tracking back in the midfield. The challenge was likely a weak yellow, but there was enough for the foul and Archimede had been playing on the edge all night. Playing down a man, the Orange weren’t able to commit as many men in the midfield to the attack, putting them on an island. While there were chances to put a ball in, the runners were missing.
Unfortunately for the Orange, in the second overtime, a free kick clearance was dropped to Arturo Ordonez of Pitt who laid it off to Bertin Jacquesson for a game winning strike for the Panthers. On the day, a young Orange side impressed and looks to set up a solid season for Coach Mac. They hung with a Pitt side ranked second in the nation for more than a full game and ultimately lost it on a golden goal while down a man. The Orange continue conference play this Sunday, as they travel to Notre Dame.