Men’s soccer goes 1-1 as injuries plague the Demon Deacons

Wake Forest defeated Jacksonville but fell in a road game at Syracuse


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Syracuse held the Demon Deacons scoreless in a 2-0 victory Friday.

Matthew Kulynych, Contributing Writer

The No. 4-ranked Demon Deacons had an up-and-down week beating the Jacksonville University Dolphins 1-0 at Spry Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 4, but falling to the Syracuse University Orange 2-0 in New York on Friday, Oct. 7. These two results put Wake Forest at 10-2-0 on the season and 3-2-0 in conference play.
Wake Forest started the week’s matches by hosting the Dolphins. Following a loss last Saturday against the now No. 2-ranked Duke Blue Devils, the Demon Deacons were looking to bounce back with a win to reinvigorate the team’s confidence and form. An early goal would have been perfect for the Demon Deacons to open up the game and allow the offense that has scored the most goals in Division I to dictate the pace.
However, the game started very slowly. The first shot of the game came for Jacksonville in the 15th minute, but junior defender Prince Amponsah immediately reacted to block the shot. It took until the 19th minute for the Demon Deacons to finally register their first shot when sophomore leading striker Roald Mitchell hit a header from the edge of the six-yard box, but it flicked wide right.
Through the first 20-or-so minutes, Wake Forest had completely dominated possession but had struggled to create any real chances out of their possession. The Dolphins had done extremely well keeping their defensive shape and cut off passing lanes to the forwards constantly. They also pressed the Demon Deacons midfield, which is still missing starters in junior Hosei Kijima and freshman Cooper Flax, who went down injured against Duke and Clemson, respectively. This prevented the normally stellar midfield from completely dictating and dominating the game. Wake Forest was also uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball, which invited more pressure from the Dolphin midfield and defense.
The game began to open up a little for the Demon Deacons in the last 20 minutes of the first half, especially with senior Omar Hernandez coming off the bench. The midfielder was taking lots of forward-thinking risks with his passes, which challenged the Dolphin defense, cracking it open a bit more. Wake Forest created a couple more chances for Mitchell and the rest of the Deacon attack, but the opening goal still eluded them.
The Demon Deacons took six shots and three corners in the first half compared to the single shot and single corner for the Dolphins. While Wake Forest did have the advantage in shots, it didn’t ever feel as though they were completely dominant in the match. Jacksonville defended excellently, and limited the home side’s opportunities in dangerous areas.

Wake Forest records a clean sheet in front of the Spry Stadium faithful in a Tuesday-night victory over Jacksonville. (Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics)

Wake Forest came out of halftime looking a lot sharper. In the first 10 minutes of the half, the Deacons were able to send two shots at the Dolphin goal, though neither troubled the Jacksonville keeper. The first of these two shots came following a corner kick in the 49th minute. Sophomore Ryan Fessler sent in the corner, and following multiple failed clearances for Jacksonville, sophomore Cristian Escribano was eventually able to get a shot in the air, but it was blocked and sent away.
The early pressure from the Demon Deacons would eventually result in the heavily desired first goal during the 56th minute. The ball was played to versatile midfielder Baba Niang at the top of the box. The sophomore took a touch and slipped, but he was able to keep the ball and maintain his footing. Slightly off-balance, Niang was able to lay it to his right, where junior Oscar Sears waited with space around him. He wasted no time on the ball, firing a first-time shot with the inside of his right foot perfectly into the bottom right corner as the keeper rushed out. This was Sears’ fourth goal on the year, putting him second on the Wake Forest goalscoring charts, only behind Roald Mitchell’s six.
Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons’ midfield would take another hit, as senior Takuma Suzuki went down following a hard, but clean tackle by a Jacksonville midfielder. That made all three of the Demon Deacons’ starting midfielders out for this game, and the stadium fell quiet in hopes that Suzuki would be okay. He had to be substituted but was able to walk off on his own power.
The rest of the game was a bit frantic, as Jacksonville pushed for an equalizer, but ultimately, the final whistle fell as sophomore goalkeeper Trace Alphin claimed a cross and the Demon Deacons were able to hold onto their 1-0 advantage, outshooting Jacksonville 13-3. Attention turned to the Friday night match against No. 7 Syracuse in a matchup between the teams tied at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division.
Unfortunately, the week ended on a low note for the second week in a row, as Wake Forest fell to the Orange 2-0 at Syracuse, a place that Bobby Muuss has never won at. Despite his injury in the previous match, midfielder Takuma Suzuki was able to play from the start, but it wasn’t enough to help propel Wake Forest to a win on a rainy night.
Syracuse started the game on the front foot, taking the first two shots of the game in the 9th and 10th minutes of the match, while simultaneously preventing Wake Forest from creating any chances.
Their dominance finally led to a goal in the 13th minute on a penalty kick. With some great buildup play at the top of the box, a Syracuse attacker cut inside on Prince Amponsah, whose outstretched foot tripped the attacker inside the penalty box. goalkeeper Trace Alphin dove the right way, but the shot found its way into the side netting.
Amponsah’s night would go from bad to worse in the 24th minute when he misplaced a header into Alphin’s goal. Syracuse sent a ball into the box from the wing, and it led to a contested header from Amponsah. Unfortunately, he poorly timed his header and jump, and the ball snuck its way into the bottom corner.
In a half that Syracuse was the better team in, Wake Forest did come close a couple of times through Roald Mitchell. He found a couple of great chances following long balls over the top, but the Syracuse keeper did excellently to deny him his goals. Mitchell also had a header brilliantly saved by the Orange keeper following a cross by the team assist leader, sophomore Jahlane Forbes.
Syracuse outshot Wake Forest 9-5 in the first half and did well to limit Wake Forest only to chances on the counter-attack.
The play continued similarly in the second half. Syracuse’s game plan, plus the slick conditions, really prevented the Demon Deacons from playing their normal patient possession game. The Orange had an excellent chance to grab a third goal in the 59th minute, but it was fortunately shanked well wide of the goal.
The biggest chance of the 2nd half came two minutes later for Mitchell. He latched onto a misplayed header at midfield by an Orange defender. However, Syracuse’s keeper came off his line quickly and denied Mitchell his seventh goal of the year.
The Demon Deacons put on a little more pressure this half, but ultimately, Syracuse was able to continue controlling the game. It’s clear that Wake Forest is hurting from Hosei Kijima and Cooper Flax remaining out on injuries, as the usually dominant midfield has been struggling to assert its dominance in the past two games.
Ultimately, the final whistle confirmed the defeat of Wake Forest, the first time the Demon Deacons were shut out this season. It was a disappointing result, but one that the Demon Deacons will look to learn and improve from. The next match comes on Tuesday, Oct. 18 when the Demon Deacons travel to William & Mary, and conference play will resume that Saturday at Spry when Boston College travels to face the Demon Deacons in the annual Genna Wiley Memorial pink jersey match.

Update Oct. 16: A typo in the story’s headline was corrected.