MSOC : Sophomore scorer Hall hitting midseason slump

All of Kyle Hall’s scoring earlier this season earned him a nice bulls-eye on the back of his jersey.

Almost as quickly as the Syracuse men’s soccer forward appeared on the scene, he has been wiped clear off of it. With five goals in his first six games with the Orange, he proved he was a lethal offensive weapon for the team. But he has been held scoreless in the last five games, cranking out only 12 total shots in those contests.

Syracuse visits conference rival Villanova on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Villanova Soccer Complex.

With SU’s offense struggling – only two goals in the last five games – the team has been desperate for a playmaker that can provide scoring chances. SU head coach Dean Foti has been forced to switch lineups often, sometimes due to injury (junior Isaac Collings) or suspension (sophomore Pete Rowley), in order to spark some offensive activity.

But earlier in the year, scoring was not an issue of concern. Syracuse (4-6-1, 0-6-1 Big East) scored eight goals in its first three games, all wins, and seemed to have addressed the weakness that hobbled it in its 7-8-4 2005 season. The big reason: sophomore transfer Hall.

Hall broke onto the scene with speed and a unique knack for the net. He hit a circus shot off a mid-air pass for his fourth goal against Albany on Sept. 4. He scored the game-winning goal on a breakaway against Loyola on Sept. 1. And he dished the game-tying assist to Hansen Woodruff in the 88th minute against Providence on Sept. 14.

Since then, though, he has been noticeably silent.

‘I’ve been taking a lot of shots but they haven’t been as crisp as they were in the first couple of games,’ Hall said. ‘I just need to refocus and re-concentrate my energies toward doing the little things again.’

Foti believes Hall’s disappearance comes as a result of defenses scouting him and usually matching their best defender with him. He likens it to the way a second-year player may be ‘jinxed’ after a successful rookie campaign.

‘It’s kind of like freshman that come in and make a splash,’ Foti said. ‘That’s why there’s a sophomore jinx because all of a sudden you can’t sneak up on anybody. It’s so much harder to have the same kind of season you did as a freshman because everybody knows about you.’

The opportunities have been there, but good defenses have made it tougher for Hall despite how talented he is at finding open spaces. Hall took three of Syracuse’s 20 shots in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Louisville, none of which came close to giving him an even six goals on the season. He said he has seen teams focusing on him more than earlier in the year, but does not believes it’s the reason for his shut downs.

‘That’s not a big deal,’ Hall said. ‘Defense is defense. They’re going to mark you whether they know you or not.’

Foti, on the other hand, has seen a noticeable difference in the type of shots Hall has been taking over the last few games.

‘In earlier games, because (he) didn’t have to fight as hard to get those opportunities, (he’s) a little less tired, a little less fatigued, a little bit better mentally to finish things off,’ he said.

Because scoring has become such a chore, Hall admitted to taking a more passive approach and trying to give his teammates the scoring opportunities. Not to say he wasn’t looking to shoot – just not looking to shot all the time. But he has realized that his teammates need him to be the primary attacker, at the very least as a decoy.

‘I was kind of looking to get more people involved,’ he said. ‘I’ve got to get back into my attacking mindset. I’m going to try and look to take it more and get my fellows like Hansen, Spencer (Schomaker) and Pete (Rowley) goals.’

Villanova (6-6-1, 2-5-0) features the Big East’s leading shot-blocker in goalie Jason Friel, and shut-out the Orange at home, 1-0, last season. Scoring against the Wildcats won’t be easy, but if Syracuse wants any hope for life after the season, it will be necessary.

‘We go into every game thinking we can win, and I don’t think that’s unrealistic,’ Foti said. ‘We’re that close. But it’s got to happen fast, because we’re running out of time.’


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