Duke might be the worst team in the ACC this year; however, let’s not takeaway from Syracuse’s spectacular two-way effort against the #10 Blue Devils on Saturday. SU needed to shut down one guy and it did from start to finish. The ACC’s leader in scoring, Brennan O’Neill, was mitigated to just three goals as Dave Pietramala and company put on an absolute defensive clinic. Let’s review what was different in the defensive end and pinpoint positives and negatives from Saturday’s big win.
Syracuse has struggled with defending opposing attackers who dodge from “X.” What was the adjustment? Well Nick Caccamo (28) was ready for an automatic slide before Sean Lulley (Duke 23) even made his approach towards goal. Pietramala was willing to gamble and it worked all game because the Blue Devils responded as if they’ve never seen a double team before. Expect these early slides to continue because the Orange have the personnel to successfully execute them.
The play doesn’t end with the forced turnover though. Caccamo swiftly moves the rock back to Bobby Gavin in goal and he gets Syracuse off and running in transition. This is where Syracuse is most dangerous, on the run, SU has several LSM’s that move like gazelle’s down the field and set up the fast break offense. In this instance, Saam Olexo (48) just decides to let it rip and tallies his third goal of the season.
Similar to what we discussed last week, Gary Gait wanted to see more of Tucker Dordevic “dodging to pass.” That’s exactly what you see on this play here. Dordevic attracts two defenders because he presents enough of a threat to draw an adjacent slide. The Oregonian quickly moves it to Brendan Curry who could have moved it once more to Mikey Berkman but decided to take it himself and did so with success. If Dordevic can continue to create offense for others, this offense will continue to flourish.
This was a very impressive sequence from the Syracuse offense. Keep an eye on the shot clock, there’s under ten seconds left, yet Griffin Cook (2) and Owen Seebold (14) show great poise up against the gun. Before Cook feeds it to Seebold behind, he draws a switch which leaves an a short-stick defensive midfielder on Brendan Curry. If there was more time on the shot clock, the ball should be going to Curry in that situation considering he has a mismatch. However, Cook makes the right decision and Seebold does an excellent job of keeping his head up. Also give credit to MIkey Berkman (3) for continuing to find ways to contribute by finding seams in the defense.
This is a really solid defensive effort from Carter Rice (12) but a few things go wrong here. One, Grant Murphy (90) needs to be quicker with this slide. The Texan is in no man’s land and never really decided if he was going to fire or stay. In any case, a decision needs to be made one way or the other. In this scenario, I would rather have Caccamo or Brett Kennedy (11) be the one sliding because they excel with this aspect of defense.
Additionally, this is a shot that Gavin needs to stop. Dyson Williams delivers a low-to-high delivery that ends up zipping right by his face on Gavin’s stick-side. If the UVA net minder wants to be considered as a top goaltender in the ACC, this is a save that needs to be made.
Matteo Corsi (42) needs to start on the first line midfield unit, end of discussion.
This is an excellent man-up set run by the Orange. Pat March draws up some misdirection which forces Duke to counter with a perfect man-down rotation. That switch never comes so Tucker Dordevic creeps over the top of the box for an easy step down rip. Anytime you can set up the Tewaaraton Award watch lister for a shot from 15 yards out, success will most likely be the result.
Quick note here, Caccamo and Kennedy covered O’Neill for the majority of the game. However, in the few instances that neither of those two covered #34 in blue, he made Syracuse pay. Grant Murphy (90) is the weak link in SU’s defensive unit right now. The senior needs to improve his sliding and play more physical. A simple slap check will do nothing against the ACC’s better players.
One of the few defensive breakdowns Syracuse had in this game. This kind of collapse is very avoidable. First, there’s no reason for Rice (12) to be challenging an opposing midfielder 30+ yards from cage. I’d prefer if the short-stick defensive midfielder just stand put on the restraining line and wait for his man to become a threat. Now, no matter where you challenge from, the dodging mid needs to be forced down the alley at all costs.
Second, the 2 slide needs to be there. Olexo (48) decides to fire which as should have but nobody replaced his vacated space and assignment. It appears as though Caccamo (28) should’ve been the guy to fill Olexo’s spot but he was late. Syracuse needs to talk through who’s the 1 and 2 slide and understand assignments better to avoid a goal like this one.
Landon Clary (30) created this play with his hustle and recognition. The LSM sprints back to the hole and seized an opportunity to make a play and cause a turnover. The sophomore then dashed the length of the field to initiate the fast break and set up Dordevic for a Sportscenter Top 10 goal. Again, any chance SU can get out and run downhill it needs to do that.
Big win for Syracuse which needed a spark to get itself back in contention for the NCAA Tournament. SU has several more chances at marquee wins but definitely needed to find some wins in ACC play. Now was this game an outlier or is it the norm going forward? We’ll find out when the ‘Cuse meets #16 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish thrashed the Orange in both 2021 meetings. Perhaps the improved defense can keep Syracuse in a better spot than last year.