The dream season reaches its peak: Syracuse men’s soccer wins the national championship
Syracuse men's soccer captured its first national championship with a win in penalty kicks over Indiana on Monday night. WAER's Liam Griffin details a magical night for the program.
With just under 11 minutes to go in regulation, Indiana found the back of the net in the College Cup Final in Cary, North Carolina, knotting the score with Syracuse at 2-2. But as they’ve done so many times this season, the Orange remained resilient, and didn’t let up another goal over the remainder of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime to send the championship game to penalty kicks.
And in what has been a magical season for SU, the most magical moment of them all came from Anferny Sinclair. It took seven penalty shots before the Costa Rica native got his shot, but when he found the back of the net, the Orange were national champions.
“It’s a terrific group, and we kept growing and evolving and getting better and better,” Head Coach Ian McIntyre said. “We had a lot of tired legs tonight, credit to Indiana, they were terrific, to find a way in the end and to be national champions is really special."
STRENGTH IN NET
The outcome of this game can in large part be credited to the goalies. Sure, both JT Harms and Russell Shealy allowed two goals, but both stood out in their own way. While Indiana’s netminder may have gotten 6 saves compared to 3 from SU’s, the latter came up with perhaps the most clutch save of the game before the penalty kicks.
With Syracuse up 2-1 in the second half, Indiana fired a shot off the cross bar that bounced down squarely onto the goal line that Shealy had to hustle to corral, which he did successfully. It’s impossible to speculate the butterfly effect that may have come from the Hoosiers scoring there, but nonetheless it was a huge moment for the Georgia native.
TENSE PENALTY KICKS
The outcomes of the first seven rounds of penalty kicks were identical to each other. The one instance where Indiana didn’t find the back of the net, Harms in net for the Hoosiers denied Joergio Kovecski. And all three times Syracuse needed to convert to keep its title hopes alive, it found the back of the net.
“When you get to a shootout, you need to ask the guys, ‘do they want one?’,” McIntyre said. “It takes a lot of courage to say ‘no I don’t want a penalty,’ it’s easy to kind of just get bullied into it.”
In round 8, Shealy denied Indiana forward Maouloune Goumballe, giving SU a golden opportunity to seal the deal. And as mentioned above, Sinclair capitalized.
The win marks a redemption of sorts for McIntyre and company. After winning their first ACC title back in 2015, Syracuse came up short, falling to Clemson in the national semifinals. Seven years later, it’s a full circle moment as the program wins its first national championship.