A relentless Syracuse Orange attack in the first half gave the Orange the cushion it needed to see out a 3-1 win over the Boston University Terriers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The reigning national champions began their title defense with familiar offensive pressure.
Boston surprised by ambushing Syracuse in the third minute to take an early lead. The Orange were caught sleeping on a goal kick restart and the Terriers found two of its forwards behind the Syracuse center back line. A tidy finish from Eitan Rosen, the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, gave the visitors a surprising early advantage.
However, Syracuse ensured that BU did not see much of the ball in the first half as the Orange dominated and controlled possession throughout the first 45 minutes. The game plan seemed to adjust without Jeorgio Kocevski, the ACC co-Midfielder of the Year, who was serving a one-game suspension due to picking up a red card in Syracuse’s last game.
Without his influence in the middle of the field, the Orange elected to attack down the sidelines more with wingbacks Noah Singelmann and Nate Edwards. Unfortunately, Syracuse found it hard to get the ball into the box as entry passes were cleared away by the BU defense. The Terriers routinely had eight or nine players backed up due to the lack of possession.
The floodgates opened halfway through the first half as Boston gave up a free kick 35 yards away from goal. Without Kocevski available, Mateo Leveque took over on set piece duty and delivered a looping ball into the middle of the ball. Nicholas Kaloukian found the service and beat the Boston keeper to the ball. His header went bar down to score the equalizer.
Syracuse piled on the pressure and took the lead 10 minutes later. As is tradition in Orange games this season, the Syracuse momentum was generated through corners. A corner from the left of goal was delivered by Leveque and the ball was headed for the middle of the six-yard box. Josh Belluz may have gotten a touch, but the final touch came from BU defender Griffin Roach as the ball deflected into the goal. That put Syracuse up 2-1.
Not even a minute later, the Orange increased the lead through the wing play that it had been developing the entire game. After Leveque won a ball in the attacking third, he switched the field to Edwards on the left side. The Syracuse left wing back drifted towards the box before sending a high cross to the middle of the box. Kaloukian caught a BU center back sleeping and snuck in front of the defender to get his head onto the ball first. It once again found the back of the end to give Kaloukian a brace and Syracuse a two-goal lead.
The second half was a calmer affair from Syracuse, who were content to hold possession without forcing opportunities on goal. The Orange were content to see out the game, which allowed Boston chances to build up play and get players down the pitch. The Terriers used short passes and a slower tempo to get numbers forward. While Boston did get more chances on goal, more often than not the ball sailed over the crossbar.
Syracuse now travels to play No. 8 New Hampshire in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats sit at 12-2-4, earning their spot with an at-large bid after losing to Bryant in the America East Championship. The two teams have only faced off once before, a 2-2 tie in 2019 after New Hampshire scored twice in the final 15 minutes to salvage a draw in Central New York.