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Controversial penalty makes distinction in Syracuse’s 1-Zero loss to Virginia – The Each day Orange

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In the 71st minute, left back Simon Triantafillou went to ground to win the ball in a one-on-one situation. Deep in his own box, Triantafillou cleanly took possession, as he’d done several times already. 

Only this time, the ball ricocheted off the Virginia attacker and onto Triantafillou’s hand. The referee blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot, despite Triantafillou’s numerous appeals for what appeared to be an unintentional handling of the ball. 

SU keeper Russell Shealy dove the right way, low to his right, but Andreas Ueland’s penalty smashed the inside of the post and found the back of the net. 

But Syracuse created equalizing chances from strong play in the wide areas, as it had done all half. Triantafillou nearly atoned for the penalty as his perfectly-placed cross found an open Luther Archimede in the box, but his header was wildly misplaced. Minutes later, Archimede was able to get a header on target as he met a looping cross from Deandre Kerr, which was tipped just over the bar by UVA keeper Alex Rando. The ensuing corner had to be cleared off the line by a Cavalier defender, too. 

“I think it was a very difficult (penalty) call,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said. “It’s frustrating that a game like this will be decided by the call of the linesman.”

The Orange (0-3-2, 0-3-2 Atlantic Coast) pressed all night for a goal that they never scored in its 1-0 loss to Virginia (2-2-1, 2-2-1), though they came inches away. Like all season, Syracuse was never out of the game, out-shooting the Cavaliers 14-13. But converting opportunities into goals has been a recurring theme for SU as well. 

“I thought our overall performance deserved to take something from this game,” McIntyre said. “There wasn’t a ton between the teams, but I thought we certainly created enough opportunities to win this one.”

The first half was an evenly balanced contest, with four shots for each side but with just one on target from the Cavaliers. Reverting to a back four and playing in a 4-4-2 for the first time this season, Syracuse’s two forwards relentlessly closed down Virginia’s center backs to try and stifle the Cavaliers’ possession. 

As the Orange have done all season, they looked to play long-balls forward to use the speed of their forwards, Archimede, Kerr and Manel Busquets. Early on, one lofted ball from Kerr was controlled by Archimede, whose cross to the back post was narrowly missed by an onrushing Busquets. “Come on Manel!” McIntyre shouted from the sideline as he pushed his side to find the opening goal.

“I thought Manel Busquets was terrific tonight. Hilli Goldhar, Deandre, Luther, I thought we made life really difficult for them,” McIntyre said.

Yet Virginia had better chances in the half. A poor crossfield pass from Archimede looking for Busquets again was intercepted and cleared. The clearance was perfectly weighted for a streaking Cavalier forward, who raced in on goal and closed in for a one-on-one with Shealy. Shealy, who was starting his second-straight game in net for the Orange, rushed off his line and got a piece of the ball, deflecting it to his right. As the UVA forward recovered the ball from a narrow angle, his shot could only find the outside of the near post. 

The game began to open up in the second half as the teams looked to break the deadlock. But this half, it was Syracuse who opened up the Cavalier defense for big chances. 

After a quiet first period, Busquets became the focal point of the Orange offense down the right wing. His pace and quick, mazy dribbling forced the Cavalier defense to back off him, and in one sequence, Busquets cut inside and found freshman Jeorgio Kocevski. The Liverpool High School product quickly laid off to Archimede, who curled an effort just wide of the post. 

Soon after, Busquets weaved his way into the box, this time electing to take on a shot himself, but his low drive was easily stopped by Rando. Busquets continued pushing, with another spell of play seeing him drive towards the byline before cutting the ball back to transfer forward Matt McDonnell, finding himself in space in the center of the box. But like the rest of his teammates, McDonnell couldn’t put the finishing touches on the move. His first touch was erratic and easily stolen by a UVA defender.

“We just lacked that final piece of quality to score the goal,” McIntyre said. 

As Syracuse committed more men forward in the second half, Virginia was able to open more counter attacks, but barring the penalty, they were often thwarted with tackles and blocks from center backs Abdi Salim and Kyle Gruno. The shots that did get through to Shealy were often deflected by an Orange defender or from too far away to test the Maryland transfer. 

Down a goal with just a minute to go, Syracuse nearly found its equalizer. McDonnell’s long-range strike just barely went over the bar and onto the roof of the UVA net. 

The Orange were inches away from a draw. They’ve been inches away from wins against No. 1 Pitt and Louisville, too. But with a rematch against Pitt canceled earlier this week, they’ll have to settle for a winless 2020 season. 

A month and a half ago, Syracuse’s season was supposed to begin in Charlottesville with an exhibition at Virginia. The Orange’s roster had just undergone a massive turnover, losing its top-scorers from a year ago with 14 new players added to the mix. 

“At that time I wasn’t sure, you know, I thought we had a talented group, but I wasn’t sure what kind of team we had,” McIntyre said.

Six weeks and five games later, McIntyre is sure now. 

“I know that we’ve got a good team, and a team that can compete at this level,” McIntyre said.

Contact Alex: athamer@syr.edu | @alexhamer8

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