Midfield steps up as ACC defenses target SU attack

first_img Published on March 5, 2014 at 11:52 pm Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb Plenty of eyes took notice when Syracuse’s attacks lit up the scoreboard in the team’s first two games of the year.Especially the Atlantic Coast Conference defenses.“I think that defenses on the other teams started trying to just shut them off,” SU midfielder Henry Schoonmaker said, “and when they do that, we have to start performing and make sure we’re the threats out there, too.“If they don’t respect us, then we’re going to score.”After blowing open the gates to start the season, SU’s attacks have taken a backseat to its midfielders in the scoring category. Possessions have been limited, but with the opportunities the midfielders have had, they’ve efficiently capitalized on them.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIf the No. 20 St. John’s (2-2) defense comes out Saturday at 4 p.m. in Kennesaw, Ga., with the same defensive approach Maryland and Virginia took against SU, the No. 9 Orange’s (2-2, 0-2 ACC) midfielders may need to step up as they’ve done the past two games.“(UVA) did a good job on our attackmen,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said. “The middies are shooting at a very high percentage and we’d like to keep that going. If the attack is not dodging and scoring, then the middies step up and that’s how it should be for us.”The Syracuse attacking unit came in with higher expectations to score the ball than the midfield, with the arrival of transfer Randy Staats and the return of Kevin Rice, Dylan Donahue and Derek Maltz — three of the Orange’s top five scorers from a year ago.And the attack was as advertised early in the season. Donahue fell just short of tying an SU program record by netting eight goals against Siena on Feb. 10. He also added a hat trick against Albany on Feb. 16 while Staats tallied seven points.But while Maltz began his transition to midfield to give way to Staats on the starting attack, Maryland forced the Orange’s offense to adjust, and the Cavaliers tried the same tactic.The Terrapins worked to keep Syracuse’s attacks from feeding one another from behind the cage, and forced SU’s midfielders to come down and take some weight off the attacks’ shoulders.“The attack know they’re getting shut off more, so they’re just giving more opportunities to us,” Schoonmaker said. The Orange didn’t have the ball enough to win either matchup, but its midfielders carried the offense in both. Syracuse was held to just eight goals by Maryland, but used a counter game plan in case the Cavaliers tried to lock down SU’s attacks behind cage.On Saturday, Virginia did just that — and the Orange’s starting midfield was twice as productive as it was against the Terrapins. Eight goals by the starting midfielders — four by Hakeem Lecky and a pair of scores each from Scott Loy and Schoonmaker — kept Syracuse in the game in Charlottesville, Va. Just 4-of-10 shots by Syracuse’s starting attack were on net, and Donahue didn’t get a shot off all night.The Cavaliers were hesitant to slide off of Syracuse’s attacks, which gave its midfielders — especially Lecky — a handful of open looks.“You can’t guard (the midfielders) with a short stick and not slide, or they’ll burn you,” Rice said.Lecky’s quickness set him up to rip precise shots past the goalie. Late in the second quarter, the UVA defense fell asleep on Loy on the weak side and Donahue hit him with a cross-field pass for a goal. Schoonmaker, with just one defender on him, ran back and forth until he found an opening and scored his second goal of the night.There’s a number of ways Syracuse’s attack could make better use of each possession, Rice said. Ball security, finding better shots and being more patient for the sake of SU’s defense came to mind.But if those issues continue to persist for the Orange, the midfielders have proven they’re capable of picking up the slack and hitting the back of the net.Said Staats: “They’re definitely dangerous anywhere on the field at any time.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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