Syracuse vs. Clemson | ACC Men’s Soccer Title Game Preview

Friday, Nov 11, 2022 at 1:45 pm by Sports Editor

By: Andrew Selover | @AndrewSelover CitrusTV Men’s Soccer Beat Reporter

One side went chalk, the other was littered with upsets. That is how No. 2 Syracuse and No. 8 Clemson both ended up in the ACC Tournament championship game on Sunday. Ahead of the matchup, we break down how both sides reached the title match and preview what might be different in the second Orange vs. Tigers clash of 2022.

On the Syracuse side, both first round games went as expected with Pittsburgh and North Carolina advancing. Then, it was both Virginia and Syracuse punching tickets to the semifinals with 1-0 wins. SU played a very defensive game against North Carolina, only tallying one shot on goal. That one shot was all the Orange needed as Levonte Johnson scored the winner in the 85th minute. Meanwhile, UVA knocked off Pitt on an early first half winner.

The semifinal was where things became interesting. Syracuse hosted Virginia on Wednesday night in a rematch of SU’s only conference loss of the season. The Orange took the lead halfway through the opening 45 minutes off a Jeorgio Kocevski penalty kick. Virginia equalized on the brink of halftime and then took the lead early in the second half. The Orange pushed for an equalizer and Lorenzo Boselli finally found the back of the net in the 84th minute. After two scoreless overtime periods, SU netted all five of its penalty kicks to advance 5-3 in a PK shootout.

As for the opposite side of the bracket, Clemson kicked off its tournament campaign at home in the first round against Notre Dame. The Tigers advanced 3-1 thanks to two Fighting Irish own goals. IN the other first round game, No. 12 Virginia Tech shocked No. 5 Louisville. The Hokies had not won an ACC game all season up until the tournament. Wake Forest proceeded to dismiss the Hokies with a 1-0 win at home in the quarterfinals. Clemson traveled to Durham to face No. 1 Duke as well. The Tigers handed the Blue Devils their first loss of the season 2-0 with both goals coming in the final 30 minutes. Then, the Tigers went on the road to Winston-Salem on Wednesday and repeated the performance with a 2-0 win over the Demon Deacons. Although the Tigers making the championship might come as a shock based on Clemson being the 8th seed, it is also important to remember that the Tigers are the reigning national champions.

In order to preview a Clemson and Syracuse matchup, we have to examen the 2-1 Orange win over the Tigers in South Carolina earlier this season. While on paper, that result should tell you that SU would be favored on Sunday, it is also important to look at the changes each team has made since mid-September. For Syracuse, not a lot has changed. The Orange have played consistent soccer for most of the season. The one question mark headed into the title for head coach Ian McIntyre is the availability of starting defender Buster Sjoberg. The Swede has been the anchor of a back three in the Orange’s formation all season but missed the semifinal due to injury. McIntyre said after the 5-3 shootout win that Sjoberg had played through injury against UNC and is “day-to-day.” SU allowed two goals defensively for just the second time all year on Wednesday without Sjoberg. His presence or absence from the starting eleven on Sunday will alter the course of the match.

On the Clemson side, the Tigers started 2022 strong with six straight wins. Then, head coach Mike Noonan’s squad suffered a 2-5-1 stretch at the start of conference play, including a loss to SU.

Now, Clemson is back to playing some of the best soccer in the country and is winners of five straight. The Tigers only started six of the same players on Wednesday against Wake Forest that they started against Syracuse in September. Expect the ACC Championship to play out much differently than the 2-1 contest from earlier this year. Kickoff us scheduled for noon on Sunday at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC.