MSOC : Scoring woes put more pressure on overworked Syracuse defense
It’s often said in sports that a great defense can be a good offense. But it can’t be the only offense.
SU’s 4-0 loss to Louisville on Sunday can’t be blamed on the defense, which let in four goals on only 11 shots to a Cardinals team that had been shut out in two consecutive matches. The defense has had to carry the load for the Orange, both in defending and scoring goals.
Syracuse usually employs four or five forwards, all capable of setting up shots and creating opportunities. But the difficulty all season has been capitalizing on those opportunities.
Therefore, there is increased pressure on a unit that simply cannot do it all. Some of the defenders occasionally find themselves in scoring positions. Senior defenseman Brad Peetom had a good shot on goal after an assist from fellow backfielder Aaron Bonser before sailing the shot wide right.
Junior James Goodwin was given a free kick around midfield with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, but he misplayed the shot and dribbled it right to Louisville’s David Guzman. Guzman took it straight downfield and fired a shot past goaltender Rob Cavicchia, taking advantage of a defense that was looking to score and not defend.
In contrast, Louisville’s offense was efficient and their defense could relax. The Cardinals scored two goals on only four shots in the first half and held SU scoreless despite a total of 20 shots. An early lead allowed UL to take chances and be aggressive, confounding the Syracuse offense and forcing it into tough shots.
‘We got caught on counter-attacks where we didn’t have enough guys back or we lost track of guys in front of our own boxes, which you can’t do,’ SU head coach Dean Foti said.
Nobody epitomized this more than Louisville midfielder Anthony Celebre, who pestered the Orange all afternoon. He seemed to have a head on every floater and a leg on every pass. He also scored the Cardinals’ first goal just 18 minutes into the game.
Foti noted one key difference between the two defenses.
‘They kept the ball out of the goal, for one,’ he said.
True, but SU’s backfield had a lot more on its plate. It also had to try and jumpstart the scoring. While Celebre seemed to do it all for Louisville, the same cannot be expected of every Syracuse defender.
In the end, SU’s defense had one of its worst performances of the year, allowing the season-high four goals and getting beat often with its backs to the ball – exemplified by Louisville’s first goal. A scuffle on the right side of the net distracted the SU defense and allowed Celebre to race behind and catch a header.
It did not get any easier for Syracuse, especially when scoring chances continued to fall apart and the Cardinals countered quickly and effectively. And as Bonser, Peetom and Goodwin were needed more up front, they found themselves struggling to keep pace with Louisville’s offense.
‘They’re a countering team,’ Peetoom said. ‘At the end it was getting tiring. Four-nil is mentally tiring anyway.’
Defense has kept the Orange in a lot of games the last few seasons. Most recently, Cavicchia’s 10 saves against No. 23 St. John’s helped SU earn a 1-1 tie last Wednesday. Last year, Syracuse held Louisville scoreless for 75 minutes before winning, 2-1, in double-overtime at Louisville.
Cavicchia knows the team could have played better against the Cardinals, pointing to communication as the key.
‘We’ve got to organize a lot more and talk a lot more,’ he said. ‘We didn’t do that too well.’
Getting ahead and staying ahead offensively is also important for SU. The Orange is 2-1 on the season when scoring first, and 3-1 when it scores two or more goals. But the defense has also allowed 16 goals in six Big East games, while the offense has been shut out in four of them.
‘I think there’s pressure on everybody to do everything,’ Foti said. ‘If you want to win games, you have to do things well that win you the games. That is, defend well in front of your own goal, which we didn’t do well today, and put chances away. And we couldn’t get more chances.’
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