SYRACUSE, N.Y. – From kickoff to the final whistle, No. 7 Syracuse men's soccer shutdown No. 4 Wake Forest in a major 2-0 victory. The Orange held the nation's best-attacking team without a goal and just five shots on target.
Senior forward Levonte Johnson won a penalty in the 13th minute of action. Junior midfielder Jeorgio Kocevski converted from the spot, putting the Orange ahead by one. Syracuse didn't wait long to find the second goal. A cross from senior defender Christian Curti caused the Wake Forest backline trouble, as the Demon Deacons spilled the ball into the back of their net for an own goal.
Syracuse outshot Wake Forest 18-10 on the night, as the Orange controlled possession and applied pressure on the visitors. This marks the first time this season that Wake Forest has been shut out in a match. Redshirt-senior goalkeeper Russell Shealy and the backline of Abdi Salim, Christian Curti and Buster Sjoberg were phenomenal on the defensive front, containing Wake Forest's renowned attack of Roald Mitchell and Baba Niang.
The Orange are now top of the Atlantic Coast Conference Atlantic Division, three points clear of Wake Forest. Syracuse has three matches remaining in conference play.
"Our best form of defense was to be aggressive," head coach Ian McIntyre said. "I thought we defended well from the front. Buster, Abdi, and Curti were awesome. Getting a shutout against a high-caliber team like Wake Forest is a big day."
How it happened:
Syracuse's (9-2-1, 4-1-0 ACC) high-pressing and aggressive play in the midfield frustrated the Demon Deacons (10-2-0, 3-2-0 ACC). The Orange created attacking chances with a mix of quick counterattacks and long periods of possession. Senior midfielder Amferny Sinclair and Kocevski were excellent on the night. Their play in the middle of the park disrupted Wake Forest's build-up play.
With excellence in the midfield, the Orange controlled possession and pinned Wake Forest back in its own half. Syracuse found early attacking chances through the play of Giona Leibold and Noah Singelmann. Kocevski came close twice, but his first shot was saved by Trace Alphin and the second was wide of the net.
The Orange broke through in the 13th minute of play. Silky passing patterns led to Johnson finding space in the penalty area. The Brampton, Ontario, native tried a dribble to his left and was brought down by defender Prince Amponsah. Kocevski stepped up to the spot with a chance to give 'Cuse the lead in a top-10 matchup. The Liverpool, New York, native was perfect, burying the shot into the left side of the goal.
The second goal came just 11 minutes after Kocevski's strike. Sophomore forward Nathan Opoku passed the ball wide to Curti. The veteran defender fired a cross into the box, looking for senior forward Lorenzo Boselli. Amponsah stepped in front of the cross and headed the ball into his own net to double Syracuse's lead in the 24th minute.
'Cuse registered nine shots in the first half compared to Wake Forest's five. Shealy made two saves in the first half.
Heroic defending and sustained aggressive play defined the second half. With a two-goal lead, Syracuse focused on maintaining possession and limiting Wake Forest's counter-attacking chances. Sjoberg made several key blocks and was excellent in one-on-one defending situations. Salim and Curti were key in closing passing channels for the Demon Deacons.
Syracuse kept its eighth clean sheet of the season and held Wake Forest to a shutout for the first time in the 2022 season. Shealy finished with five saves, just one shy of tying his career high.
Syracuse is 9-2-1 on the season, which is the best record through 12-matches since the 2014 season.
The Orange are now 2-0 against United Soccer Coaches' top-5 teams. This marks the first time in the McIntyre era that the Orange beat multiple top-5 sides in a season.
Syracuse held Wake Forest to a clean sheet for the first time this season after Demon Deacons had scored in 11-straight matches. The last time they were shut out was against Notre Dame in an 0-2 loss in the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Kocevski scored the game-winner against Wake Forest. He has three goals on the season, and opened the scoring in the 2-1 win against Clemson earlier this season.
Syracuse has eight clean sheets in 11 matches this season, tied for the ACC lead in shutouts with Duke.
A Syracuse opponent scored an own goal for the first time this season.
Syracuse will look to keep its momentum going on Monday, Oct. 10, against Loyola. The match is set to kick off at 6 p.m. at the SU Soccer Stadium. The Orange will then travel down to Louisville on Oct. 14 for a 7 p.m. match. Both contests will be streaming on ACCNX.