Men's Soccer

Syracuse forwards Chong, Rhynhart emerge as valuable players off bench

Sterlin Boin | Staff Photographer

Noah Rhynhart (right) and Grant Chong have proven to be capable scoring threats off the bench. Both are tied for fifth on the Orange in points.

With the score knotted at 1-1 and 15 minutes remaining in Syracuse’s Sept. 20 match against Duke, SU head coach Ian McIntyre turned to his bench.

Out went Stefanos Stamoulacatos and Emil Ekblom. In went forwards Grant Chong and Noah Rhynhart. That same minute, Orange forward Chris Nanco scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal in SU’s 2-1 victory off an assist from Chong.

Through seven games this season, Chong and Rhynhart have been key reserves for the Orange, bringing instant energy to the SU lineup. The two will look to continue that trend Wednesday night when Syracuse (5-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosts Massachusetts (0-7-1) at 7 p.m. at SU Soccer Stadium.

“They’re important parts of our team,” McIntyre said. “ … You have players who will come on just to kind of provide a rest for some of the starters, and then you have players like Noah and Grant who you’re hoping can change the game.”

Entering Wednesday’s match, the two have combined for just one start — Chong started on Sept. 9 against Manhattan. But while Chong and Rhynhart rank 11th and 13th, respectively, on the team in minutes, they’re each tied for fifth in points.

Both Chong and Rhynhart said the mindset of a reserve is different than that of a starter, but they both look to make the most of their opportunities. As Chong put it, “Not only just to give Stef, Nanco, (Alex) Halis and Emil a breather, but to go in and have an impact.”

Knowing the defenders they’re facing have probably been on the field for a while, Chong and Rhynhart take advantage with their own legs, playing balls behind the defenders and forcing them to move.

Both also said practice is a key time for them to establish chemistry with the starters.

“It’s definitely important that we both play very well during practice so that we can prove to the (starters), give them confidence when they’re playing us the ball during the game,” Rhynhart said.

Sophomore Rhynhart came off the bench in the season opener against Colgate and played just 32 minutes. But on his only shot on net he gave the Orange a 2-0 lead. Not only did he score, but he also started a streak of three SU goals in eight minutes.

“That goal was big for me,” Rhynhart said. “I played some last season, but wasn’t able to get that breakthrough goal. So that goal was important for my confidence and so I could feel much more a part of the team.”

On Sept. 2 against Hartwick, both Chong and Rhynhart shined. In the 27th minute, Chong entered the match and almost immediately set up Juuso Pasanen for a goal. Rhynhart replaced Alex Halis in the 33rd minute. In the 48th minute, he had a shot of his own blocked.

“We incorporate them into everything we do. It’s not just the starting lineup,” Stamoulacatos said. “Everyone is incorporated, and I think that’s why when we sub in it’s very fluid.”

In the second half, Chong kept at it, and in the 50th minute, he scored to give SU a 1-0 lead. He appeared to have scored again two minutes later, but it was called back after an offsides call.

Against Manhattan, Chong was awarded the start while Rhynhart continued to do his thing off the bench. In the 37th minute, Rhynhart assisted on the Halis’ goal that gave the Orange a 3-0 lead. Three minutes later, Rhynhart almost scored himself, rushing in from the midfield and slipping a shot just past the post.

Although he missed that opportunity, Rhynhart, as well as Chong, has capitalized on others throughout the season.

“It’s a long, hard season and you’re going to need players,” McIntyre said. “ … I think it’s important that you have some depth and competition for places and we’re starting to get that.”

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