Men's Soccer

Syracuse thriving when faced with man-down situations

Josh Shub-Seltzer | Contributing Photographer

Usually when a player gets sent off with a red card, the team plays more reserved and packs the penalty area to compensate. Syracuse does the opposite.

Usually when a team loses a man to a red card, it plays more reserved. It packs the penalty area to compensate for having fewer players in an attempt to stop the opposition from scoring. Syracuse does the opposite.

Twice this season, a player for No. 8 Syracuse (3-0-1) has been sent off after a red card. Both times, SU either trailed or had been tied with its opponent. After the red cards, extra offensive pushes have translated to nearly 37 shutout minutes of defense and two goals — 25 percent of the team’s total goals this season.

“We played our best soccer a goal down and a man-down,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said after SU tied Princeton on Friday. “… When you’re behind and you’re down … those emotions, you have nothing to lose. It becomes a lot easier.”

Tied 1-1 against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Aug. 27, Syracuse’s Sondre Norheim was sent off with a red card just 42 seconds before the end of regulation. Thirteen seconds later, the Orange made an offensive push and freshman Petter Stangeland scored what became the game-winning goal.

In the next contest, Princeton clung to a one-goal lead over Syracuse, which had yet to score a goal. The Tigers mirrored Syracuse’s 3-5-2 formation, which forced SU to attempt riskier passes and hope for open space. That “disjointed” play, as McIntyre called it, led to missed opportunities and a one-goal deficit.

A later Princeton corner kick ended with a collision between junior defender Kamal Miller and another Princeton player. The referee blew his whistle and, as Miller walked by, he said something to the referee.

The referee immediately drew the red card from his shorts for abusive language. Down a goal and a player, Syracuse decided to attack and try to tie the game.

Rather than using his bench, McIntyre relied on his starters. He immediately subbed back in Johannes Pieles and brought back Hugo Delhommelle after a six-minute rest.

“Coach brought us in (after Miller’s red card) and he said, ‘We’re not going to sit back and let them come after us,’” sophomore defender John-Austin Ricks said. “We’re going to come after them.”

The offensive push, “twisting” the Princeton defense, McIntyre said, led to players cramping. After a full 90-minute game, all but Stangeland stayed on for the additional two overtime periods.

“(When you’re) a man-down,” Delhommelle said, “(the coaches) want us to step up and give a little extra and that’s what I tried to do. Most of the players were cramping at the end, but that’s what we have to do.”

With slightly under seven minutes left to play, Ricks found open space. He chipped a shot from about 30 yards out and sent the ball beyond the jumping goalkeeper’s reach to tie the game.

Though SU failed to score again, the offense kept the pressure on. After Ricks’ goal, the Orange finished the final 26 minutes outshooting Princeton seven to three and held three to zero advantage in corner kicks.

On Sunday night, Syracuse dominated Northwestern. But in the three games prior, the Orange struggled to find its rhythm until late. In the opening game, it took SU 79 minutes before scoring its first goal, and then the game-winner came in overtime.

“Traditionally you sit and let the other team have it,” McIntyre said after Princeton. “I’ll be honest with you, today we went the opposite of that and we went brave and we went for the game.

“That was when we were the best.”

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