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Syracuse 2014 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Syracuse 
Conference – Atlantic Coast Conference 
Coach – Ian McIntyre (5th Season)

Background –With a number of key seniors graduating and the transfer of Jordan Vale to UCLA, it was always going to be difficult for the 2013 Syracuse team to match the success of the 2012 squad. The Orange had a season for the ages in 2012, finishing 14-6-1 and winning the first two NCAA tournament games in program history. But between graduation, injury, and transfer, the top five scorers from that team were gone by the start of the 2013 campaign. The Orange still managed to finish 10-7-1, reaching double digits in wins in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995-96. A new set of young stars emerged along the way, led by forward Emil Ekblom and midfielder Alex Halis. Arriving in Syracuse after an outstanding youth career for Stabaek in Norway, Ekblom stepped in and started all 18 matches and notched 10 goals and three assists. Halis started 17 games and posted six goals and one assist. Both were named College Soccer News Freshman All-Americans. Overall, the team had its ups and downs in its first year of ACC play. The highlights were a 2-1 road victory over Duke and a 1-0 home win against nationally ranked Clemson. But the rigors of the high-powered ACC proved too much in the end, as the Orange finished 3-7-1 in league play. Syracuse did go 7-0 in non-conference play, however, with signature wins over Georgetown and UConn. In addition to Ekblom and Halis, goalkeeper Alex Bono also received postseason honors with a selection to the All-ACC third team after posting eight clean sheets.

Offense –The sophomore forward duo of Emil Ekblom (10g, 3a) and Chris Nanco (4g, 1a) return to the fold in 2014, but there are a pair of new faces who will challenge them for minutes. Korab Syla joins the Orange as a junior after helping Herkimer County CC to a pair of NJCAA Division III national titles, amassing 16 goals and 25 assists in the process. True freshman Danny Apajee – CSN’s No. 113 recruit in the Class of 2014 – will also compete for minutes up top after scoring 40 goals in his career as a member of the New England Revolution academy team. The team’s midfield corps is back in full this fall, led by sophomore Alex Halis (6g, 1a) and senior Nick Perea (3g, 1a). Junior Juuso Pasanen (2g, 1a) and Stefanos Stamoulacatos (2g) return to provide even more stability in the middle of the park. Freshman Julian Buescher is a German youth national team stalwart who will push for minutes in the midfield as well.

Defense –The Orange were solid at the back last fall, recording eight shutouts and allowing more than one goal on only five occasions. Defense is the most experienced unit on the team, with a trio of senior starters returning in Jordan Murrell (6a), Skylar Thomas (1g) and Chris Makowski (1a). Murrell and Makowski both have 50-plus starts on their résumé, and Thomas would be close to that number as well if not for an injury that robbed him of half his sophomore season. Sophomore Oyvind Alseth (4a) was the fourth starter last season and ended up second to Murrell on the team in assists. The unit may return intact from a year ago, but there will be intense competition for minutes with the arrival of transfers Liam Callahan and Louis Cross and the return of Tyler Hilliard from injury. Callahan started 18 games for Villanova last fall as a redshirt freshman, while Cross started 13 for Akron a year ago as a true freshman. Hilliard emerged as a key player down the stretch as a redshirt freshman in 2012 but played only five games last year. Alex Bono will return in net for his junior season and is already among Syracuse’s career leaders in nearly every statistical category.

Newcomers – Four Star Recruiting Class 

Danny Apajee – Forward – Cranston, R.I. – Scored 40 goals in 103 games for the New England Revolution academy team. Named 2012 Gatorade Rhode Island Player of the Year after notching 14 goals and 10 assists for La Salle Academy. Ranked the No. 113 player in the Class of 2014 by College Soccer News.

Julian Buescher – Midfielder – Duelmen, Germany – Trained at youth academies of German club teams VfL Bochum and Preussen Muenster. Has represented Germany at the U-16 and U-18 level.

Liam Callahan – Defender – Amherst, N.Y. – Transfer from Villanova. Started 18 games at left back for Villanova as a redshirt freshman in 2013.All-American at Sweet Home High and career leader in goals (34) and assists (41).

Troy Carrington – Forward – Verona, N.J. – Played for the SDFC Gauchos club team and Verona High. Ranked the No. 138 player in the Class of 2014 by College Soccer News.

Pat Castle – Goalkeeper – Schuylerville, N.Y. – Played center back in addition to goalkeeper for Schuylerville High. Scored 10 goals and added two assists as a senior to earn All-State honors. Played club soccer for Blackwatch Premier.

Louis Cross – Defender – Lancashire, England – Transfer from Akron. Played in 17 games (13 starts) for Zips as a true freshman in 2013. Played for the Blackpool FC youth academy.

Spencer Kopko – Defender – Ithaca, N.Y. – Captain of Empire Revolution academy team. Scored three goals in 40 games.

Korab Syla – Forward – Yonkers, N.Y. – Transfer from Herkimer County Community College. Led HCCC to back to back NJCAA Division III national championships. Named 2012 NJCAA Player of the Year after notching six goals and 21 assists.

Brad Willis – Defender – New Canaan, Conn. – Captain of IMG Academy club team. Spent first three years of high school at The Hotchkiss School where he was a NEPSAC All-Star and two-time league champion.

Prognosis for 2014 –With every starter and numerous key reserves back from a year ago, plus quality newcomers arriving at every position, Syracuse has a chance to eclipse the heights of the 2012 campaign. The Orange will be more prepared for the rigors of ACC play now in their second year in the conference, with the added bonus that games against traditional powers Notre Dame, Virginia and Wake Forest will all be at home. The non-conference schedule will be a stern test, highlighted by trips to Akron, Rutgers, St. John’s and UConn. There will be losses along the way, but the team will be battle-tested come tournament time. The Orange will be a tough out in the ACC tourney, and an NCAA seed is certainly in play. With the combination of talent, experience and depth this year’s Syracuse team boasts, the pieces are in place for a deep NCAA tournament run.


Posted in 2014 Team Reviews

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