MSOC : New kids on the block: Nineteen newcomers give Orange fresh look in McIntyre’s 2nd year

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Rachel: rnmarcus@syr.educenter_img Mark Brode shakes his head when asked about the Orange and Blue game from Aug. 12. He wants to erase the scrimmage between Syracuse’s returning players and its newcomers from his memory. Brode and the returners were embarrassed, losing 5-1.‘I think at the time it represented something,’ Brode, a junior midfielder said. ‘There’s definitely a little rivalry between us and them and practices got a little intense.’That intensity can be traced to the team’s 13 freshmen, a huge incoming class. This year’s men’s soccer squad has 19 new players that make up more than half the team. Many of the newcomers are expected to play critical roles in getting SU (1-2, 0-0 Big East) back on track following last season’s 2-10-5 record. And after their performance in that intrasquad exhibition game, it became evident that they would be crucial to determining the fate of the team in 2011.The chemistry between the returning players and newcomers will be key for Syracuse as it tries to reach the lofty goal put forth by head coach Ian McIntyre. He wants to make the Big East tournament, a feat the Orange hasn’t accomplished since 2005. But following two straight losing seasons, including one under his watch, the second-year head coach just wants to see his team compete more than anything.‘He can really show what he can do as a coach,’ said former SU defender Dan McGowan, who graduated in May. ‘I definitely think the team has a better chance this year.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd playing the newcomers will be a part of building that competitive mentality. The Orange has found success with new players stepping up early on.Senior forward Dan Summers, who transferred from Hartwick, has provided the Orange with an experienced playmaker on offense. He hasn’t scored through three regular-season games, but he has been a revelation in moving the ball offensively for a unit that struggled to find the back of the net throughout 2010 and early in 2011.And then there’s the back four on defense. Three are freshmen, yet they’ve combined to make the defense a strength of the team in the early part of the season.‘With all of the new players, many of them young, he will continue to test them and get a feel for what they are ready for and capable of,’ former SU goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo said in an email to The Daily Orange. ‘Those that are ready and capable will be the players Mac relies on.’One of those freshmen defenders is Skylar Thomas, who has scored two goals in three games to lead the Orange offensively.But even one of Thomas’ goals, his tally against Canisius, was a stroke of luck. A corner kick took a fortunate bounce his way, and he headed it in for SU’s first goal of the season.In that same game, Summers was all over the field, aiding the aerial attack from an offensive standpoint. He used his body like a weapon, throwing it at the ball and fighting to gain possession.McIntyre has seen that relentless style of play in the freshman class, too. Perhaps it’s rubbed off on them from the experienced Summers.‘That freshness, that energy and enthusiasm has been great,’ McIntyre said. ‘It’s been contagious, and there’s been a good vibe in practice.’That vibe has continued from practice to games so far, even if the team has only won once in three tries. The players are starting to get comfortable with each other on and off the field.Just one month ago hardly anyone knew each other. At the beginning of the preseason, new goalkeeper Phil Boerger said everyone arrived in Syracuse and met pretty much for the first time.There was no key nucleus returning from last year. Newcomers and veterans alike fought for starting spots.Boerger, another new senior, was one of the first newcomers to arrive at Syracuse when he came last spring. Then there were roughly a dozen players left on the team after transfers and graduation. Now there are 31.‘The whole team is new and everyone’s getting used to it,’ Boerger said. ‘It was a quick adjustment. But I think we’ve done well.’Boerger’s assessment rings true now. The team has come a long way since that Orange and Blue game in August when the sides were four goals apart. The blowout set the tone for competition this season.‘It breeds a competitive environment,’ the former defender McGowan said. ‘It’s good for the team.’With the large group of newcomers, McIntyre has players that fit his system as he moves through the second year of his tenure. There won’t be as much of a retraining process that the 2010 team went through with some of its players used to former SU head coach Dean Foti’s system.The newcomers give the team a better chance at a winning record, but it’s important to remember that they’re still freshmen. The veteran presence of the returning players remains crucial as the first-year players adjust to the college game.Vuolo knows the valuable dynamic the veterans bring to the team. As last year’s starting goalkeeper for the Orange, Vuolo dealt with a similar amount of turnovers at the beginning of last season. He himself was a transfer from Hartwick.‘The majority of the returning players have been in high-profile games before,’ Vuolo said. ‘So when the pressure begins to build and as the season progresses, the younger players will be able to look to them as examples.’And Vuolo said McIntyre understands each player’s abilities and how to use them, new or old.In addition to Thomas, freshman forward Grant Chong seems to be one player McIntyre will rely on heavily. Chong admitted he was both excited and nervous before the exhibition, the first collegiate game of any kind for him.He didn’t think the new guys had a chance to win, that they would instead be ‘pounded’ by the returnees. But in a match filled with tangled feet, head bumping and sliding battles, Chong scored two goals and the newcomers were the ones that provided the pounding.‘We really didn’t have any pressure on us,’ Chong said. ‘We just can’t stop running. We’re always looking to get better because we know we don’t have our spots.’As the younger players solidify their roles on the team, the two sides will merge. There’s leadership coming from the returning members of last year’s team and from a new player in Summers, a senior offensive leader. Plus there’s a huge talent pool to choose from with the 18 other new faces.A few weeks into the season, the Orange and Blue game is close to being erased from the players’ minds. Even for Brode. Any semblance of a rivalry has been tabled as the 2011 squad begins to gel.But coming together as a unit is only half the battle. The team still needs to go out and produce on the field — something last year’s team couldn’t do. SU won’t make it to the Big East tournament without getting results.‘Now it doesn’t matter what year you are or how long you’ve been here,’ McIntyre said. ‘As soon as we pull on that Orange jersey we’re one team. We’re the Syracuse team.’rnmarcus@syr.edulast_img

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