All season, Ian McIntyre has placed emphasis on urging his team to keep fighting and add a second goal to separate itself from opponents. The Syracuse head coach has often watched his defense have to stave off late comeback attempts in nail-biting games.
The Orange finally gave itself a cushion late in its game on Tuesday against Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. Skylar Thomas scored in the 76th minute to propel Syracuse (8-2, 1-0) to a 2-0 win over the Minutemen (3-4-2, 0-0). Thomas received a pass from Jordan Murrell and took a shot on goal. After his first attempt dinged off the post, he retrieved his own miss and beat the goalie, icing the game for the Orange.
“When that second goal went in, it gave us a little cushion and we did a good job finishing the game,” McIntyre said in a phone interview.
SU outshot UMass 16-4 and attempted 10 corner kicks compared to none for the Minutemen.
McIntyre said his team came out aggressive from the get-go and put constant pressure on UMass. He said the game wasn’t pretty at times, but the Orange found a way to nullify the Minutemen’s attempts on goal while SU’s offense found the back of the net.
“We were good,” McIntyre said. “Especially in the first half I thought we really pushed ourselves and negated UMass’ opportunities. It’s very important on the road to not sit back and to attack.”
Murrell started the attack for the Orange with a goal in the 17th minute on a left-footed strike from outside the box, giving the visiting team a 1-0 advantage.
Murrell and Thomas provided offense at important moments on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s nice that we’ve been able to share the goals around a little bit,” McIntyre said. “Today we had two of our defenders scoring, which alleviates some of the pressure on the forward players.”
Murrell and Thomas also anchored a Syracuse defense that prevented UMass from attempting any shots on goal.
Alex Bono returned to the field after a one-game absence following a red card against Cal State Fullerton, but the goalie wasn’t seriously challenged.
Senior Mark Brode also played for the first time since Sept. 3when he helped the Orange rout Colgate 6-0.
Brode played 50 minutes on Tuesday, which is the most he’s amassed all season. He has been recuperating from a fractured finger that kept him sidelined for weeks.
McIntyre said it was great to see Brode back out on the field and playing substantial minutes.
“We’ve got such a young team that it was very pleasing to have a senior go out there and settle things down,” McIntyre said. “I’m delighted for him because he’s been a big part of our team on and off the field.”
While Bono and Brode returned for Syracuse, senior forward Lars Muller missed his second straight game. McIntyre said Muller is getting treatment on a groin injury.
McIntyre said he hopes Muller will be ready to go when the Orange faces Cincinnati on Saturday night.
McIntyre said Cincinnati is a very athletic and technically sound opponent, and that his team is in for a challenge in its first Big East road game. Despite the difficult matchup, McIntyre believes his players will be ready for yet another road game.
“We’re a team that’s shown resilience to go on the road and get results,” McIntyre said. “Now we’re gonna need those same results as we go on the road in conference play.”