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Virginia men’s soccer team falls to Syracuse in ACC opener

Virginia men’s soccer team falls to Syracuse in ACC opener

A hot start propelled Syracuse to a 3-1 win over the Virginia men’s soccer team Friday night on Klöckner Stadium, and it left UVa head coach George Gelnovatch heated after the match.

“We made two bad mistakes,” Gelnovatch said. “I mean two really bad mistakes. The first goal and the third goal, we gifted them.”

The match was the ACC opener for each squad. The Cavaliers drop to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC, while the Orange move above .500 to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the ACC.

Syracuse opened the scoring in the sixth minute, when Deandre Kerr found the back of the net. The early deficit grew in the 19th minute when Max Kent headed in a corner kick from Colin Biros.

“Give Syracuse credit because they also brought a man-to-man quality all over the field, like man-to-man marking all over the field and pressure all over the field,” Gelnovatch said. “That was good and worked today.”

The Cavaliers showed flashes of impressive play on both ends, but trying to overcome an early 2-0 deficit against a conference foe is an unenviable position. Virginia worked hard to create scoring chances the rest of the match, but the Orange played solid defense in the box and took advantage of the occasional counterattacks.

Syracuse’s 2-0 lead was the first time all season the Cavaliers faced a two-goal deficit.

Virginia quickly answered with a gorgeous sequence from Paul Wiese and Leo Afonso. Wiese helped spark a transition opportunity from the right side. He fired a lengthy pass in the air to Afonso. The ball was perfectly placed, and Afonso used a nifty shot with the outside of his right foot to move the ball from near the middle of the box to the right side of the net.

The goal, which came in the 23rd minute, helped the Cavaliers flip momentum and reengage the home crowd.

In the second half, the Cavaliers pushed the pace looking for the equalizer.

Kevin Ogudugu was arguably the team’s top threat in the second half, making Syracuse defenders look silly with an array of dazzling one-on-one moves. He helped created opportunities for the Wahoos, but the equalizer never came.

Syracuse’s defense did well to keep the Cavaliers from finding opportunities inside the box, as a few UVa scoring threats came on long-range strikes.

With just over 15 minutes left, a sloppy turnover by the Cavaliers gave the Orange an opportunity. They took advantage, as Kerr scored his second goal of the match. He moved toward the right before shooting to the lower left of the net, beating a diving Holden Brown in goal. It was a crafty move from Kerr, who created plenty of space to score in the lower left portion of the net by drifting right.

“I felt like before they got the third one that we had momentum, that we were going and that the second one was coming,” Gelnovatch said. “It was an absolutely terrible mistake that we gave up that third goal because that essentially ended the game.”

Syracuse led 3-1, a commanding advantage with minimal time left in the contest.

The final 15 minutes were entertaining — UVa’s bench drew a yellow card for arguing after a call — but neither team found the net again.

It’s a strong start to ACC play for Syracuse, which jumped all over UVa in the opening minutes and never looked back.

Virginia returns to action when it hosts UNC Greensboro on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Gelnovatch hopes to see better energy and performance from his squad after two consecutive defeats.

“When you lose a game, in particular two, you expect a response from everybody, just an intensity and focus and discipline,” Gelnovatch said. “Let’s just start there.”

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Virginia's offense has drawn significant, and deserved, praise for its performance this season, but perhaps lost in the shuffle has been the play of the Cavaliers' defense, which has allowed just 14 points in two games.

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