Featured image by Jessica Lam
By Charlie DeMatteo
Boston University men’s soccer (12-3-4, 7-1-1 PL) fell to the Syracuse Orange (9-4-7, 2-1-5 ACC) 3-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Syracuse, NY, ending the Terriers season.
Coming off winning the Patriot League Title on Saturday, the Terriers got off to a dream start against the defending national champions Syracuse by going 1-0 up inside four minutes. However, an offensive flurry from the Orange which included two goals in 38 seconds saw the Terriers eliminated.
“All in all, I thought it was a pretty good performance tonight aside from a 10 minute spell,” BU Head Coach Kevin Nylen said postgame. “We went down swinging with a fight and I think we did well tonight with all things considered.”
Syracuse started the game on the front foot with a chance in the game’s third minute. Graduate midfielder Felipe D’Agostini made a bursting run through the midfield and was unmarked from just outside the box, but his shot went well over the crossbar.
The Terriers then immediately responded with a great passing sequence of their own which saw sophomore forward Alex Bonnington find junior forward Eitan Rosen inside the penalty area. Rosen took the pass first-time and executed a finish of real quality into the top right corner, giving the Terriers a shock 1-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Rosen, the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year and scorer of the Patriot League Championship game’s only goal, continued his scorching hot form.
“I thought we started pretty well tonight with the goal,” Nylen said. “The goal came from one of the patterns that we looked at, [Rosen] has been good all year, he really has.”
For 20 minutes, the Terrier defense was equal to everything the Orange threw at them. Senior defender Griffin Roach commanded the backline and an organized defensive structure was not making things easy for the ACC outfit. However, that changed in the 23rd minute.
After a soft foul was given as an Orange free kick, junior midfielder Mateo Leveque was able to pick out teammate Nicholas Kaloukian who headed home to get Syracuse back on level terms. Terrier goalkeeper and Patriot League goalie of the Year Francesco Montali made a rare lapse in judgment, and was stuck in no-man’s land as the ball drifted past him into the BU net.
“We hadn’t given up a set-piece goal since Lafayette on October 14, and I said to the guys ‘later in the year you can’t give away set-piece goals,’” Nylen said. “They’re a big team, physical, they’ve scored set piece goals this year.”
10 minutes later, a Leveque free kick which was saved by Montali led to a Syracuse corner, where the Orange would once again capitalize from a set-piece. This time, Roach was unable to defend as he has done all year and turned the ball into his own net—an own goal to put Syracuse on top 2-1.
Then, 38 seconds later, Syracuse continued to pile on the pressure when Kaloukian got his second of the game via a ball from senior midfielder Nate Edwards, which found its way past Montali.
In the blink of an eye, a one-goal BU lead turned into a two-goal deficit.
“Once you score early on, you know they are going to come at you, and we were pinned a little bit,” Nylen said. “But once you concede one that gives the opposition that little bit more [momentum].”
Despite being punched in the gut, BU made some inroads to close out the first half. Senior defender Ryan Lee made a lengthy run down the right flank but his effort from outside the box dribbled just wide of the Syracuse net.
The Terriers entered the break down 3-1, despite playing well for the majority of the first 45 minutes.
“I told the guys ‘you got two options down 3-1, you can roll over and play with fear, or you can just go out and give it your all,’” Nylen said. “I knew before I even said it what would take place and I thought it was a pretty good second half by us.”
BU continued to plug away in the second half, and created a number of noteworthy chances against the defending national champions. First, senior midfielder Andrew Rent got on the end of some good Terrier build-up play in the 58th minute, but his effort from the edge of the box lacked composure and was skied high.
Similarly in the 70th minute, Rosen had the first of multiple chances in his favorite spot on the left wing, but neither of his curling efforts found the back of the Syracuse net as they had done all year long.
“I thought in the second half we were aggressive, we played with purpose, and there was a passion about us,” Nylen said. “We didn’t find [a goal], but I think we showed in that second half the team we have been all year.”
BU mustered some more half-chances in the final 15 minutes, but just lacked the quality to edge any closer to Syracuse. While it may not have been the story book ending for the Terriers, it was a valiant performance against one of the country’s best teams, and the end to an unforgettable season.
“I’ve said it time and time again, I couldn’t be more proud to do it with those 27 guys,” Nylen said. “For some guys it was the last time they will put on the BU jersey, but I told them they laid the foundation and they have been the ones to drive us to this point. Now, it’s on all of us to use this as the bar.”