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Syracuse University 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Syracuse University
Conference – Atlantic Coast
Coach – Ian McIntyre (6th Season)
Background – Ian McIntyre was named the head coach at Syracuse in 2010 with the task of transforming the program into a national contender. He has delivered. During his first two seasons at the helm of the program the Orange won a total of five games but it was clear at the time that McIntyre was putting in place a solid foundation upon which to build. The results of his efforts were apparent in 2012 when Syracuse had a breakout season during which they were 14-6-1 overall, returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1984, and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. In 2013 Syracuse moved from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference and had another double digit win season with a 10-7-1 overall record. In 2014 Syracuse had another banner season with a 16-4-1 overall record and a 5-2-1 mark in conference play. They were awarded the number nine seed in the NCAA Tournament and topped Penn State 2-1 before losing to number eleven seeded Georgetown 2-1 in the Sweet Sixteen. Syracuse was ranked as the number ten team in the country in the 2014 season ending polls of both the NSCAA and College Soccer News. McIntyre was honored as the 2014 ACC Coach of the Year. Goalkeeper Alex Bono was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was named a First-Team All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Bono and forward Emil Ekblom were All-ACC First Team selections. Back Skylar Thomas and midfielder Julian Buescher were All-ACC Second Team selections. Buescher was also named to the All-ACC Freshman Team. 
Offense –  The Orange will be without the services of forwards Emil Ekblom (8g, 3a) and Alex Halis (4g, 2a). Ekblom who hails from Norway and Halis who is from Canada decided to pursue other opportunities after two very productive seasons. Ekblom, who netted a total of eighteen goals in two seasons and led Syracuse in scoring in both 2013 and 2014, elected to play professionally for Stabaek Football, a Norwegan Soccer Club. The Orange must also fill the void that exists due to the graduation of center midfielder and team leader Nick Perea (5g, 0a) who was a four-year starter and led all Syracuse players in minutes played in 2014 and midfielder Stefanos Stamoulacatos who elected to forgo his senior season to sign a professional contract with the Greek team Iraklis Thessaloniki FC.  Junior forwared Chris Nanco (5g, 2a), who has been a starter for the past two seasons, is among returning players who will be called upon to play a key role in the attack in 2015. Transfer Ben Polk, who found the back of the net thirty-three times at Harkimer County Community College, and freshman Adnan Bakalovic who honed his skills playing for the Revolution Empire Academy are among the members of the recruiting class that could add to the attack up-top. Both are technically sound goal scorers with the potential to become impact players but they will likely experience a learning curve. Sophomore playmaker Julian Buescher (0g, 5a) who had a stellar freshman season returns to set the pace in the midfield. Senior Juuso Pasanen (1g, 0a) and junior Oyvind Alseth (3g, 5a) are among other returning players who should figure prominently in the midfield in 2015. Newcomers Jonathan Hagman from Sweden, Andreas Jenssen from Norway, and Morgan Hackworth out of the Philadelphia Union Academy appear to have all the ingredients needed to add value and compete for minutes in the midfield from the get-go.  
Defense – Syracuse had a rock solid defense in 2014 allowing opponents a total of only twelve goals and recording twelve clean sheets. Their 0.55 goals against average was the third best in the country. Major rebuilding will be required on the defensive side of the ball entering the 2015 campaign due the the graduation of starting backs Skylar Thomas (3g, 0a) and Jordan Murrell (2g, 7a) who were stellar four-year starters. Thomas was the number eleven pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft and Murrell who led the Orange in assists for three seasons was the number fifty-seven pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Syracuse will also be without back Tyler Hilliard (3g, 1a) who transferred to Duke for his final season of eligibility. There will be some trial and error in the early going on the defensive side of the ball as Syracuse goes about retooling the backline. Redshirt junior Liam Callahan (0g, 2a) is among returning players who should play a key role in the back in 2015. Junior Louis Cross also looks to be in the mix. McIntyre will likely have to depend on some highly regarded but nonetheless young and inexperienced defenders. Freshmen Kamal Miller, Miles Robinson, Chris Gomez and transfer Oskar Sewerin are among the members of the recruiting class who will be in the hunt for a starting job in the back. The Orange also with be without the services of All-American goalkeeper Alex Bono who decided to forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the professional ranks. Bono, a three-year starter and a difference maker during his tenure at Syracuse, was the number six pick in the 2015 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. He will be missed. Sophomore Pat Castle from Schuylerville, New York, and new newcomers Austin Aviza from Medway, Massachusetts and Hendrik Hilpert from Eiterfeld, Germany will compete for the starting role in goal. The Syracuse defense has the potential to be outstanding but with so many new faces on the pitch there will be a learing curve and it will take a while before everyone is on the same page. 

Newcomers –  Five Star Recruiting Class 

Coach McIntyre stated, "I am delighted to welcome these outstanding young men into our program. It is a group that's excited to represent Syracuse University and they are fully committed to the work required to help us build upon an outstanding 2014 season." 

Adnan Bakalovic – Forward – Utica, New York – Thomas R. Proctor High School – Played club for the Revolution Empire Academy. Named to the USSDA U-18 Winter Showcase Best XI.

Andreas Jenssen – Midfielder – Lommendalen, Norway – Toppidrettsgymnas (NTG) – Captain of the U-19 Stabaek Academy Team. Has also played with the Stabaek reserve team.  

Hendrik Hilpert – Goalkeeper – Eiterfeld, Germany – Played for TSG Hoffenheim and Eintracht Braunschweig. Has played for the U-16 and U-17 German national teams.  

Ben Polk – Forward – Banbury, England – Transfer from Herkimer County Communty College – Named the NJCAA Region III Player of the Year. Netted thrity-three goals including eight game-winning goals and contributed five assists at HCCC last year.

Austin Aviza – Goalkeeper – Medway, Massachusetts – Played for the New England Revolution Academy. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 106 player in the class of 2015.  

Christopher Gomez – Defender – Jamison, Pennsylvania – Central Bucks East – Ranked by College Soccer News as the number nineteen player in the class of 2015.  Played for the Philadelphia Union Academy. Member of the U.S. U-18 Men's National Team player pool.

Morgan Hackworth – Midfielder – Wallingford, Pennsylvania – Strath Haven High School – Played for the Philadelphia Union Academy. Team captain. 

Jonathan Hagman – Midfielder – Enebygerg, Sweden – Danderyds Gymnasium – Played for the AIK Stockholm Academy. 

Spencer Held – Forward – Agoura Hills, California – Played club for Real So Cal. 

Jake Keller – Midfielder – Wappingers Falls, New York – Roy C. Ketcham High School – Netted forty-seven goals and contriubuted twenty-five assists in high school. Played for Soccer Plus Academy Whitecaps. 

Kamal Miller – Defender – Scarborough, Ontario, Canada – Blessed Mother Teresa CSS – Played for Vaughan Soccer Club. Played for Canadian U-15 and U-17 National Teams. 

Miles Robinson – Defender – Arlington, Massachusetts – Arlington High School – Played for FC Boston Bolts. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number forty-two player in the class of 2015. 

Ockar Sewerin – Defender – Stockholm, Sweden – Ostra Reals Gymnasium – Transfer from the University of New Haven. Started thirty-three games in two seasons at New Haven. Named to the Northeast 10 All-Rookie Team in 2012.

Prognosis for 2015 – Syracuse's revival has been built around tenacious play on the defensive side of the ball and a balanced attack on the offensive side of the ball led by a lot of technically gifted players that fit nicely into the Orange's traditional possession and passing style of play. Syracuse will enter the 2015 campaign seeking to continue their upward trajectory in the face of some very key personnel losses on both sides of the ball. McIntyre will have skilled athletes all over the field to work with but the bottom line is that Syracuse will undergo a youth movement in 2015 as they go through the process of reloading that is required when there are a lot of voids to fill due to departures. Chris Nanco gives the Orange a proven finisher up-top. He will hit the ground running. However, Syracuse will need another goal scorer to emerge up-top. Transfer Ben Polk may prove to be the answer. Sophomore center midfielder Julian Buescher, who had a banner freshman season, will anchor the midfield and likely set the pace for the team. Redshirt junior defender Liam Callahan, who has been hampered at times in the past by injury, returns to provide an experienced presence to build upon in the back but the fact that the Orange will have to depend on several of the newcomers to help out immediately is a concern. Ditto that for the departure of All-American Alex Bono in goal who was the starter for the past three years. Sophomore netminder Pat Castle filled that role during the spring season but will likely have to compete with newcomers Hendrik Hilpert and Austin Aviza to keep the starting job. Syracuse will seek to build on the success they enjoyed in 2014. McIntyre has a solid foundation in place and will not be starting from scratch but with so many voids to fill the 2015 season is a new beginning of sorts for the Orange. The first few contests on Syracuse's 2015 schedule are competitive but they are conducive to giving the inexperienced players the opportunity to settle in and gel before the Orange begins Atlantic Coast Conference play on September 11 when they host Louisville.   


Posted in 2015 Team Reviews

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