Syracuse wingbacks provide offensive versatility but allow for defensive gaps

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 11, 2017 at 8:35 pm Contact Charlie: [email protected] | @charliedisturco Syracuse often pushes up all but four of its players past midfield on offense. It’s something that, when executed, creates trouble for defenses. But, when it fails, only three defenders remain back to protect the goalkeeper from a close shot.The key to Syracuse’s offensive success starts with its wingbacks, the two outside midfielders, pushing up. John-Austin Ricks and Jan Breitenmoser have started every game for the Orange (5-6-2, 0-4-1 Atlantic Coast) at the position, posting a combined seven points and 14 shots. While their offensive success and versatility gives SU an extra push, it opens up defensive holes that can translate into runs from the opposition.“A lot of teams play with four in the back, we play with three,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said. “… There’s times when you push forward and you’ve got good possession of the ball. Sometimes we’ve made mistakes.”Oftentimes, players said, those individual mistakes have proven costly, translating into Syracuse dropping six of its last seven. Though goals often come after the opposing offense settles, pushing all but its three backs upfield spreads the SU defense thin during counter runs.Against Oregon State, the Beavers pushed upfield and a pass near the left side of the penalty area found Hassani Dotson. One-on-one with Ricks, Dotson went right and ripped a shot top right corner. Though SU pulled out the win, the counter attack gave Oregon State the opening goal.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe next game, the Orange was less fortunate. Tied 1-1, Louisville pushed its counter attack and a cross-field pass found star forward Mohamed Thiaw. He took three touches with defender Sondre Norheim in front of him before firing past goalkeeper Hendrik Hilpert. It became the deciding goal in a 2-1 SU loss.“We got caught a couple of times because we were too high,” Breitenmoser said.Though getting back on defense has burned the Orange at times, it has been beneficial to the offense. By winning the ball in the opposing half of the field, the offense can set up and attack. Possession is crucial, especially in close games, because only twice has Syracuse played a game not decided by one goal.Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerPlaying with wingbacks widens SU’s formation, dragging defenders to the outside and letting Syracuse push down the sidelines. By working with the backs and midfielders to push the offense upfield, wingbacks often end up near the end line before crossing the ball into the penalty area. It either deflects off the defense and results in a corner or is sent into a crowded box.Ricks’ offensive versatility has shone on set pieces, where he’s added two goals off headers, including the game-winner against Oregon State. He added a game-tying chip-shot goal from 30 yards out to tie Princeton in a game when SU struggled. Breitenmoser back-heeled a pass to Jonathan Hagman to score the Orange’s lone goal in a loss to Duke. He added a near-goal cross that the goalkeeper had to jump back and block away.“We’ve played a different couple formations this year and (Ricks and Breitenmoser) have been important parts if we play four or three in the back,” McIntyre said. “… They’re important parts in our identity in who we are.”To play wingback, fitness is essential. As the offense pushes up, so do the wingbacks. And when the ball is turned over or saved, they have to sprint back to play defense. Sophomore midfielder Mo Adams estimated a wingback can run up and down the field 50 times a game.And for most wingbacks, the position is new. Of Syracuse’s two starting wingbacks, only Ricks had experience at the position. With Liam Callahan and Oyvind Alseth manning the position in 2016, Breitenmoser played midfield occasionally and Ricks played only intermittently. This is the first year they’ve started in every game, and are backed up by Adnan Bakalovic and Simon Triantafillou.Before Syracuse’s game against Akron, Bakalovic and Triantafillou played irregularly and started in five and three games, respectively. But, on Oct. 3, McIntyre changed his rotation. Instead of taking out Ricks or Breitenmoser, he subbed out the both for Bakalovic and Triantafillou in the first half of both the Akron and North Carolina State game.All four players’ versatility shows in-game. Each has an aspect of an offensive game that has proven beneficial to SU. Then they run over half the field back, ready to make a stop on defense.“You need wingbacks who can cover the field,” Adams said. “… It suits the (four) players.” Commentslast_img read more