Men's Soccer

Syracuse sports ACC’s most balanced scoring attack

Tony D. Curtis | Staff Photographer

Chris Nanco has stepped in and added the scoring Syracuse has needed with the departures of Julian Buescher and Ben Polk. Other players have stepped in as well to give SU a balanced attack.

When Syracuse lost its top two goal scorers to early entry in the MLS Draft, the Orange needed answers. More than 45 percent of SU’s 44 goals came via Ben Polk (12) and Julian Buescher (eight). Another 11 percent vanished to graduation with the departures of Noah Rhynhart and Korab Syla.

The obvious answer to fill the void was Chris Nanco, the dynamic senior forward who’s been a mainstay atop Ian McIntyre’s attack since his freshman year. Or Miles Robinson, the sophomore defender who’s developed a knack to finish on set pieces when he moves up from his spot on the back line.

Both Nanco and Robinson have equaled their scoring output from a year ago through nine games this season, so they’ve delivered as expected. But it’s been the others — notably Jonathan Hagman, Johannes Pieles and Kenny Lassiter — that have given the Orange an offensive depth no other team in the conference has.

“Certainly we lost, as we all know, a lot of goals, I think 24 to graduation and obviously losing a couple guys early,” McIntyre said. “It’s a nice problem to have that we’re scoring goals, and we’re getting them from a variety of different players.”

No. 3 Syracuse (8-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) has five different players with three or more goals scored this season. Nanco and Robinson have four each, while Hagman, Pieles and Lassiter — who had a combined one career collegiate goal before this season — each have three. No other team in the ACC has as many players with three or more goals scored and six teams have none or one. No. 4 North Carolina (7-1, 3-0), who the Orange hosts on Friday night at 7 p.m., is the only team with four.

“The morale in the team, to have a lot of goal scorers in the team, it gives a lot of trust,” Hagman said, “and it’s not like you have to give the ball to a certain guy for us to score.”

Last year, after Polk and Buescher, there wasn’t much of a consistent goal-scoring threat. Six other players had at least three goals, but none imposed their will on a defense like the two current MLS rookies. Coming into 2016, McIntyre knew a by-committee approach would be the best way to patch the holes. Syracuse doesn’t have an established one-two punch atop the score sheet now, but that may be for the better.

The Orange has at least one primary goal scorer on each of its three lines. Nanco, Pieles and Lassiter give SU a bevy of options up front, while Hagman leads a midfield line that’s also received goals from Liam Callahan (two) and Oyvind Alseth (one) and Robinson has shouldered all the scoring from the back line.

Photos by Tony D. Curtis

Tony D. Curtis | Staff Photographer

“Even (if) our strikers or one part of our attack is not going as planned,” Alseth said, “we have a plan B, we have a plan C.”

Those two backup plans have given Syracuse one of the two most lethal attacks in the country’s best conference. The Orange is tied for first in the league with 20 goals and the team knotted with SU happens to be the next one that will step foot on the SU Soccer Stadium grass.

The Tar Heels boast one of the ACC’s best defenses and have only surrendered four goals in eight games. But Syracuse has already managed to get on the score sheet against a top-four defense in the ACC in the past week when Robinson scored against Notre Dame.

Now, the Orange will have to do the same or better to avoid its second straight loss. This year, there’s no telling who it could be to shoulder that load.

“It’s tough to get (scoring) from one or two guys so it’s been important for guys to step up and hopefully that continues,” McIntyre said, “because we’re gonna need some goals from a variety of different people.”

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