Consistent Syracuse defense provides backbone while offense continues to find rhythm

first_img Published on October 4, 2012 at 1:31 am Contact Jack: [email protected] Syracuse’s defensive effort has been consistent all season, making up for a lack of goals from the offense.“The goals have kind of not really shown how well we’ve been playing, which is more frustrating on our part because our back four is probably one of the best I’ve seen in a long time,” junior defender Jackie Moriarty said.The defensive unit has been a reliable force all year for the Orange. And with the offense appearing to have finally found its rhythm, the team is playing its best soccer during the most important part of the season. The unit will look to continue its strong play when Syracuse (7-4-2, 4-1-1 Big East) plays Pittsburgh (5-9-1, 0-4-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m.Since Big East play started, SU has allowed an average of only one goal per game. Two of the team’s three shutouts came against conference opponents.The increased level of play on both sides of the ball translated to four wins in six Big East games, giving the Orange a chance to compete for a conference title.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“This year I’ve had a lot less to worry about than previous years, so it’s great,” junior goalkeeper Brittany Anghel said. “We’re organized, we have a high backline, which enables me to get higher up the field and stay connected to my backs.”Anghel’s also been strong in net. Her 16th career shutout against Rutgers last Sunday moved her just four shutouts away from becoming SU’s all-time career shutouts leader. Overall, Anghel is allowing a stingy 1.15 goals per game.Wheddon said his defensive unit has been “brilliant.”Moriarty was going to be a midfielder this season, he said, but she embraced playing on the backline with Kayla Afonso, Skylar Sabbag and Taylor Haenlin. Wheddon praised the play of the latter three thus far.“All three of them have done great, when they’ve been in,” Wheddon said. “And obviously our goalkeeping has been exceptional as well.”Still, the defense has experienced occasional hiccups. Five times this season the Orange has allowed a goal after the 70th minute, leading to either a tie or a loss. That includes a goal from Army with only 45 seconds left on the clock in a 1-0 loss to the Black Knights on Sept. 9.Moriarty said to prevent late goals, the team cannot let up on its opponent at any point.“Give 110 percent all the time; just keep playing until the end,” Moriarty said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen and case-in-point Army, we paused for a second and they scored.”Wheddon did express concern about the speed of the team’s back four, but he said they have overcome that and avoided being exploited by opponents.“The way that we play is very important, and their timing of when they step with players and when they drop as a unit has been very, very important,” Wheddon said. “And they’ve done that fantastically all year long.”Though the Panthers have yet to win a game in the Big East this season, the Orange cannot afford to take the game lightly.“They’re unpredictable, which makes them dangerous,” Wheddon said. “They play particularly well on a Thursday or Friday compared to a Sunday, so we’re getting them when they’re fresh. I would love to get a shutout, yes, I would love to see us bang in multiple goals, but we’re certainly not overlooking them.”But Moriarty said the defense is playing well enough right now to believe it can shut out just about any opponent.Said Moriarty: “Our confidence is on the up now on the defense; we know we can shut any team out.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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