Men's soccer

Syracuse attack fades after jumping out to early lead in 2-1 loss to Louisville

Jordan Vale timed his run on Jordan Murrell’s corner kick just right, meeting the ball with his forehead above a group of Louisville defenders. As it did three nights earlier against Rutgers, the duo gave Syracuse an early one-goal lead.

The Cardinals proved to be a much tougher test than the Scarlet Knights, though. After relinquishing that early goal, Louisville (7-4, 3-1 Big East) controlled the tempo and handed Syracuse (9-4, 2-2) its second loss in three games on Saturday night in front of 1,652 at SU Soccer Stadium.

“We started out really, really well,” Vale said. “But we weren’t able to keep that momentum going and a team like that will make you pay for slowing up.”

Head coach Ian McInytre said his team looked sluggish after its second home game in three days. Fatigued or not, the Orange seemed slower in every phase of the game, routinely losing uncontested balls.

Louisville’s blazing team speed — and a few crucial Orange mistakes — paved the way for Syracuse’s second Big East loss this year.

Both factors helped Louisville score a game-tying goal in the 28th minute. In his second start on a mixed and matched backline, freshman SU defender Tyler Hilliard misplayed a long ball down the near sideline. The ball sailed over his head and to a sprinting Dylan Mares, who crossed to Greg Cochrane for an easy goal from 4 yards out.

The score would remain tied until the 70th minute, when Louisville forward Zach Foxhoven scored on a breakaway goal that left the Syracuse backline flat-footed and unresponsive.

“It’s not like they’re an easy opponent, they were an elite eight team a few seasons ago,” McIntyre said. “So besides those two errors, I thought we played them pretty tight tonight.”

Not tight enough to earn another upset win this week. Alex Bono was given the biggest test of his young career with six Cardinals shots reaching the freshman goalkeeper.

That constant pressure never cracked Bono, who ended the game with four saves, including a highlight reel stop on a free kick he punched over the crossbar.

But the pressure limited the number of counterattacks the Orange could mount. Always on the defensive, Syracuse rarely strung together the type of offense that it has in past games.

A last-minute slide tackle rebuffed a point-blank Cribley attempt in the 10th minute of the first half. Louisville goalkeeper Mike Mauro punched out a Murrell free kick haphazardly with 45 seconds in the first half.

And in between those opportunities, Syracuse stumbled with maintaining possession, giving the ball back to the dangerous Cardinals attack with each new blunder.

“We had to go into a defensive mode tonight to try and fight them off,” Bono said. “Every time the ball was in the (Syracuse) backline they were pressuring hard. They seemed like they were everywhere in the midfield. They got a lot of touches on the ball and they were able to work it around us.”

McIntyre called the contest a “measuring stick” game that proved his team could compete with the league’s best. But on Saturday, Louisville pulled through in spite of a slow start, leaving the fast-starting Orange wondering where the team actually measures up.

“We just took too long trying to find out what was going to hurt them and what was going to work for us,” Murrell said. “And, evidently by the score, they were able to do what we couldn’t tonight.”

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