ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany men’s soccer team (5-3-2) hosted Syracuse University (8-2-1) on Bob Ford Field at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on Tuesday night. When the 90 minutes expired, the Great Danes had earned a signature win, dropping the third-ranked Orange by a score of 2-1.
“We felt like we created some good chances tonight,” said UAlbany head coach Trevor Gorman. “We had guys reacting to second balls, balls were dropping to them, and you need the ball to drop your way in any game. Fortunately for us, we found those two goals, and we had a couple other chances that we liked.”
“They’re a fantastic team,” Gorman continued. “There’s a reason they’re ranked where they are and so tough to beat. They’re going to go on to a lot of wins, but tonight we were very proud of the effort.”
UAlbany remains undefeated at home this season, recording three wins and one tie. Syracuse is now winless in its last three games.
Not only is the win the biggest of Gorman’s tenure at UAlbany, Syracuse is also the highest-ranked opponent the Great Danes have defeated on their home campus. The previous best results under Gorman were a win at home against 22nd-ranked Farleigh Dickinson on September 15, 2013, and a tie at eighth-ranked UMBC on October 12, 2013.
The Orange entered the game ranked third in the country in the coaches’ poll and fifth in the country in RPI. It was UAlbany’s highest-ranked opponent since playing fourth-ranked Syracuse two years ago.
UAlbany’s offense had seemingly stalled during a 0-0 double-overtime tie at Hartford over the weekend. Before that game, the offense was clicking, accumulating seven goals from six different players in the two games preceding the conference-opening match against the Hawks. Any concerns about how the offense would play were quickly assuaged, as the Great Danes struck early, less than three minutes into the first half. Senior midfielder Leo Melgar cleaned up a mess of a play in the Syracuse box when he redirected a deflection off of the Syracuse goalkeeper, Hendrik Hilpert, into the high-center netting.
UAlbany appeared to have control of the game through the middle of the first half, maintaining possession and keeping the pressure on the Syracuse defense. Syracuse, however, seemed to settle down and started wresting control of the ball from the Great Danes as the half wore on.
In the 33rd minute, the Orange drew a foul just beyond the UAlbany box, setting up their first good scoring chance of the evening. Syracuse forward Johannes Pieles could not convert, however, sending the free kick over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards, the Orange had a prime opportunity to score denied by UAlbany’s goalkeeper, Lucas Vallilo (2-1-0), who deflected a point-blank blast from Syracuse’s Chris Nanco.
Syracuse put away an equalizing goal in the 38th minute of the first half on a chaotic sequence that saw the Oranges’ first two shots denied by the crossbar and by the Vallilo on the line. But Syracuse defender Kamal Miller collected his own rebound, firing a shot past Vallilo, who could not recover after his initial deflection.
The first half came to a close with the score knotted 1-1. Syracuse out-shot UAlbany 8-3 in the period and drew six corner kicks to UAlbany’s one.
Syracuse seemed to have control for the beginning of the second half, maintaining possession as they tried to break through the UAlbany defense. When UAlbany had a chance, it came quickly off a turnover before settling back into the Syracuse possession. As time wore on, the second half grew more tense, and the play became a bit more aggressive.
Melgar nearly scored on a spectacular scissor-kick in the 64th minute that would have once more given UAlbany the lead, but his shot veered just to the right of the Syracuse goal. Soon after, junior forward Afonso Pinheiro had a clear draw from the left side right into the middle of the Syracuse box, but no one was there to receive the pass and the opportunity slipped away.
In the 75th minute, senior defender Keith Traut played in a long ball from the right side, over the top of the defense. Waiting for the ball in the Syracuse box was freshman defender Brynjar Steinþórsson, who deflected the lob with his head to the foot of senior forward Jonathan Interiano, who slipped the ball to the left side of the goal past Hilpert to give UAlbany the lead. It was Interiano’s first goal of the season.
“It feels great,” Interiano said. “I just came back off injury, missed half the season trying to get back. But I couldn’t ask for more than a big game score. This was a huge win against a top name, but I think the next one is even more important, just because it’s a conference match.”
UAlbany held Syracuse without a shot for the remainder of the game, securing their 2-1 victory. UAlbany out-shot Syracuse in the second half 6-4. Vallilo recorded a career-high six saves in the game.
“It’s a nice win,” Gorman said. “I think it reaffirms a lot of beliefs that we have, that we are capable of playing with anybody. The America East is as strong a conference as is out there this year as the RPI has shown and as the results have shown. Anytime you can play a really quality program and get a win, you’re thrilled.”