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Alberto Camargo | | September 17, 2022

How No. 16 Syracuse men's soccer upset No. 1 Clemson — and what made it so rare

Clemson defeats Washington, secures 2021 Men's College Cup

The full-time celebrations at Historic Riggs Field were tinged with a different shade of orange on Friday as No. 16 Syracuse upset No. 1 Clemson 2-1 to shake up the DI men’s soccer landscape. 

Syracuse’s win is just the third over the No. 1 team in program history and the first on the road since 2000. The Orange remain undefeated this season while handing the Tigers their first regular season loss since a 2-0 defeat in October 2021 — which was also at the hands of the Orange. 

The Tigers’ Isaiah Reid opened the scoring in the eighth minute, and the numbers tell us that when Clemson scores first, they rarely lose. In 13 seasons under coach Mike Noonan, the Tigers were 125-8-8 in games in which they scored first.

Syracuse responded by playing like a team with no interest in how long their odds of winning were after Reid's goal.

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The Orange knocked off the defending College Cup champions by beating them at their own game, dominating play and creating more chances than a Clemson team that is not used to playing on the back foot, especially at home. 

Less than 10 minutes after conceding, the Orange responded by capitalizing on Clemson’s poor decision-making. A shanked clearance off the line caromed to Levonte Johnson who found Jeorgio Kocevski in front of goal. The junior stayed composed and finished past a scrambling Trevor Manion to even the score.

This goal probably won’t make any highlight reels, but it was Kocevski’s second of his college career — and undoubtedly the most important.

The Orange outshot Clemson 10-4 in the first half and did not let up in the second. Just two minutes after the break, Seattle transfer Johnson added to his point tally by beating two Tigers off the dribble and silenced Riggs Field with his third goal of the season.

With Clemson chasing the game and growing increasingly desperate as time ticked away, the Orange absorbed pressure and nearly sealed the win on a couple of counterattack chances. Goalkeeper Russell Shealy upped his game as the match wore on as well, making five of his six saves with Syracuse on top.

It’s a huge conference win for the Orange and one that might propel them into the United Soccer Coaches' top 10 next week.

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