Men's soccer: Orange overcomes slow start, beats Niagara

Deep SU roster outlasts Purple Eagles in 3-0 win.

Through the first 21 minutes of its 2014 home debut Friday, Syracuse failed to generate any scoring chances in the penalty area and move the ball with efficiency.

But all it took was one header from Louis Cross to change that entirely.

Sparked by the defender's first career college goal midway through the opening half, the Orange turned up the heat offensively and pulled away to a 3-0 victory over Niagara in game one of the Central New York Classic at SU Soccer Stadium. The three goals are the most in a game by Syracuse since a five-goal output against NC State on Oct. 4, 2013.

"Overall, it was a very good performance," Orange head coach Ian McIntyre said. "Certainly, there was a little bit of rust. Maybe on another day, we could have had a couple more, but it's tough for me as the coach to kinda grumble when you win 3-0 and you have a shutout."

The pace was slow early in the first frame, as neither side could find a good look at the cage. But in the 22nd minute, SU senior Jordan Murrell lobbed an arcing pass in Cross' direction.

The Akron transfer elevated to deflect the ball on cage, and it soared past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Joel Gerberich. 

"It was pretty spectacular actually," Cross said. "Being a defender, I'm not really expected to score. It really lifted the team."

Visibly energized, the Orange (1-0-0) dominated the rest of the half and carried that momentum into the second period. Chris Nanco doubled the lead in the 49th minute by coverting a tough left-angle shot on the near side.

SU outshot the Purple Eagles 13-2 in the second half and drew five corner kicks. One of those resulted in an insurance tally, as a volley by Oyvind Alseth hit a Niagara defender and trickled into the cage with eight minutes remaining.

As the Orange continued to maintain possession, all Niagara (0-1-0) could do was play catch-up.

"We started to spread them out wider and use more of the field," Nanco said. "Teams are going to eventually get tired on us, and the players that we're bringing off the bench are really going to help us."

The Eagles were unable to test SU goalkeeper Alex Bono, who moved into third on Syracuse's all-time list with his 19th shutout despite failing to record a save.

The Syracuse defense played admirably without senior Skylar Thomas, who had started the final exhibition game against Akron, and 2013 co-captain Chris Makowski. McIntyre didn't say if either would return for Sunday's contest against St. Mary's.

But overall, the Orange's field general was pleased with the performance of each unit and only expects them to improve as the season continues.

Said McIntyre: "Guys know that you're probably not firing on all cylinders today, but a solid start to the season."


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