first_imgSt. Bonaventure’s Kosi Nwafornso walked off the pitch on Tuesday night with a hood pulled over his head. A couple of teammates walked over and patted his back. Nwafornso shook his head, his eyes glued to ground.A few feet away, Syracuse players wore thick Nike coats and wide smiles. They huddled together near camera crews, applauding freshman Julio Fulcar for making it “big time.” The contrasting scenes were a result of the previous 90 minutes. While SU celebrated, Nwafornso struggled. While the Orange dominated with relative ease, Nwafornso failed time and again.The 6-foot-1 playmaker entered the game responsible for seven of the Bonnies’ 11 goals and was the producer of more than half the team’s points (16 of 31). He’d been on the scoresheet in all but one of the Bonnies’ wins. For the Orange, the defensive strategy was simple: Stop Nwafornso. Syracuse (7-4-2, 1-3-1 Atlantic Coast) did just that, holding St. Bonaventure’s (5-7-1, 2-3 Atlantic 10) “focal point,” Orange defender Kamal Miller said, to one shot in the Orange’s 7-0 demolition.The win marked Syracuse’s third-straight shutout at home while its allowed just one goal in the last 322 minutes played in SU Soccer Stadium, dating back to an overtime draw against Colgate on Sept. 24. In that stretch, the backline has stifled the best offense in the country (Wake Forest) and one of the worst (Ohio State). On Tuesday night, it was Nwafornso and St. Bonaventure’s turn.“We put out the fire before the fire,” Miller said. “We were proactive on him and had an eye on him wherever we were.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFour nights ago, SU was burned by then-No. 11 Louisville for not stopping its top-performers. The Cardinals’ Tate Schmitt and Adam Wilson — U of L’s points leaders — erased Syracuse’s 2-0 lead en route to a draw. Against a weaker St. Bonaventure squad, SU made sure the Bonnies’ threat wouldn’t make an impact.Syracuse jumped out to an early two-goal lead created by sophomore Tajon Buchanan and didn’t allow the Bonnies to rebound.When the game kicked off, SU goalie Hendrik Hilpert screamed “pressure,” as blue and orange striped jerseys dashed across the field. Whenever the Bonnies possessed the ball, two defenders gravitated toward Nwafornso. As St. Bonaventure weathered Syracuse’s initial fury and brought the ball to its own attacking-third, two Orange defenders remained on Nwafornso.“I thought we did a good job of cutting off the service,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said. “Our pressing, for the most part, was good tonight. We worked extremely hard to limit their opportunities.”The Nigerian-born attacker seized one-on-one opportunities, using a combination of size and space to best defenders. On the rare occasions that he broke free of SU’s press, another defender would charge at him.Syracuse starting center back Len Zeugner was “banged up,” and not available. Tuesday night’s backline consisted of Miller, Sondre Norheim in a more central role, Simon Triantafillou and spot-starter Jan Breitenmoser. Syracuse routinely shakes up the defensive rotations in practice, familiarizing each other for when the time comes.“I thought (Triantafillou) did a good job,” McIntyre said. “When (Nwafornso) moved through the middle, I thought (Miller) and (Norheim) did a good job. We had bodies around him.”SU’s backline utilized a “one-and-a-half job” mentality, Miller said. Each defender was constantly aware of two Bonnies’ players: whomever their assignment was and Nwafornso. On restarts — goal kicks, corners and set pieces — the Orange dedicated two and sometimes three bodies to the one player that could beat them.In the first half, with Nwafornso open on the wing, a St. Bonaventure midfielder was called for a handball. The senior clapped his hands and kept his head forward, but his frustration grew as the game went on.Once Buchanan added a third goal, Nwafornso jogged to midfield. He shook his head when SU forward Ryan Raposo almost scored seconds later. He kept his head down on the ensuing free kick and didn’t notice the ball sail over his head.Later in the half, a through ball from the Bonnies’ backline was intended for Nwafornso but it was too high and he took one step before realizing it. From the stands, a St. Bonaventure fan yelled “You guys got to support him, come on!” His teammates didn’t, though, and Nwafornso watched as Fulcar scored SU’s fourth goal. Buchanan capped off his hat trick two minutes later.Nwafornso’s night ended in the 68th minute as the Bonnies’ subbed out four starters, effectively conceding the match. Nwafornso sauntered to the bench and sat down. He hadn’t made his impact and all that was left to do was watch.“We were aware of (Nwafornso),” McIntyre said. “…We’ve played against good players this year and I thought we did a decent job of keeping him quiet tonight.” Published on October 16, 2018 at 11:07 pm Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarez Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img