End of Season Grades for Syracuse Men’s Soccer
By Jared Johnston
CitrusTV Men’s Soccer Beat Reporter
Last week, Syracuse men’s soccer went on pause for a positive COVID-19 test in their program. With that, the final two games on the schedule versus Boston College and Wake Forest were cancelled. The season was a roller coaster for all teams, with the first ever edition of a spring season to accommodate for games lost to scheduling issues.
For Head Coach Ian McIntyre, the mindset heading into the fall was to use every game as a learning experience. With 11 freshman players on the roster, it was inevitable to run over some bumps along the way.
The Orange finished at a 2-7-4 record, going winless in the ACC at 0-3-1. With this in mind, it’s time to look back at how the season unfolded, seeing what SU can continue to do right as well as improve where they have been caught in the wrong. Let’s get started with some end of season grades for the team.
This grade is an obvious marker for anyone who has followed the ‘Cuse this season. Christian Miesch started the year between the sticks and struggled mightily. Through three games started, the Swiss international conceded a goal on every other shot.
That scare prompted McIntyre to give a nod to Russell Shealy. The redshirt sophomore was a transfer from the 2018 National Champion team, University of Maryland. While the record stated earlier doesn’t scream titles, Shealy has the experience to be there in the future.
As a starter, Shealy led SU to their only two wins of the season and held draws against worthy opponents like #15 UNC among others. The main standout for the keeper was the bulk of the saves he was making. Shealy was second in the ACC in saves making over three a game, while only conceding just above one goal per game.
With that being said, the main problem for the Orange is the supporting casts in front of goal. Shealy would have shined even brighter with an improved effort in front of him, but he couldn’t get much help. Struggles of inexperience coupled with defensive responsibilities bring us to the next grade.
Syracuse men’s soccer went winless through the fall portion of the season, going 0-3-2. A part of that was injuries, namely with one to sophomore center back Abdi Salim, but a predominant part was the burden of responsibility placed on the shoulders of freshmen. Kyle Gruno had been starting all of SU’s games playing in a back four during the fall.
The ‘Cuse came back in the spring and started off strong on defense with a 2-1 victory against Hofstra. From there new arrivals helped a new look defensive line started to settle in. McIntyre shifted to a 3-5-2 formation in the spring, after freshman Olu Oyegunie slotted in as a natural left-sided center back. Then an identity started to take shape after senior captain Sondre Norheim reverted to a center defensive role.
The Orange would face some tough tests during the spring and prove their worth towards the tail end of the season. One key performance was a 0-0 double overtime draw to #15 UNC. This score got goalkeeper Russell Shealy his first clean sheet as an SU player, and McIntyre saw this as a result stemming from the back line.
“Gruno [Kyle], Olu [Oyegunie], and Sondre [Norheim] were wonderful to limit two of the best attacking players in our conference to very few chances,” McIntyre said postgame. “The captain had to go deeper and deeper to try to find the ball because I thought Sondre did a wonderful job of keeping him quiet.”
From there, Syracuse would close out the season with a rebound from a loss to NC State with a win against St. Francis. While the results were inconsistent during the earlier part of the year, the defensive line bought into McIntyre’s system later on. Kyle Gruno, Olu Oyegunie, Hilli Goldhar on the flanks, and Abdi Salim will return in the next season. They’ll look to be young beacons for the team to earn hold results and earn wins, after taking this past season to adjust and learn a new system.
The offense for Syracuse was hot and cold, but even when shots did find the back of the net, it was far and far between. In reality, there’s not much to say about the offense except to be patient. Collectively, the ‘Cuse’s offense finished second to last in the ACC scoring ranks with 13 goals tallied across 13 games.
Individually, the front two forwards were not that great. Manel Busquets did not record a point all season, and Deandre Kerr recorded four goals, with two in a game versus Louisville in the fall, and the last ones stretched across the final three games of the season.
The reason to stay calm about the goal production for the Orange is that just like the defense, the key figures are finding their stride. Last season, this team had MLS Super Draftees Luther Archimede and Ryan Raposo. Raposo namely led the team with 15 goals in his final year.
This season Kerr was thrust into a starting role at 17 years old. While he succeeded at the youth ranks, the Canadian needed time to adjust at the college level. Coach McIntyre has said time and time again that patience is necessary. “Deandre needs time, he’s still finding his rhythm. Give him time and the goals will come.”
For junior striker Manel Busquets, it’s a tough look to not notch a single point, but his creative presence was invaluable. Busquets’ movement off the ball to create space for teammates was crucial, especially in the final match versus Saint Francis. Manel not only hit the crossbar twice, but was dynamic to allow for Kerr to break free for a match winner. After that match, McIntyre knew what the Spanish native brought to the table. “He was fantastic today, he looked like he did everything for us but score.”
Ultimately, the Syracuse offense will grow into shape, especially with the likes of point leader Noah Singelmann along with Jeorgio Kocevski in the midfield supporting the forwards up top. The pieces are in place, they just need to grow into their roles.
I might just be a generous grader, a B- is what I’ll leave Syracuse men’s soccer with. Russell Shealy is more than capable of holding down the fort, while the defensive line has loads of untapped potential.
The offense still needs to find its form, but the midfielders should be able to synergize the strikers like Deandre Kerr to prevent the team from playing from behind on the scoresheet. From there, Head Coach Ian McIntyre’s tactical wisdom will carry over to his 12th season in the program, where SU can look to launch a much improved 2021 fall campaign.
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