syracuse albany 2016
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Syracuse – Albany: Photos, Video, What We Learned

Was I shocked that Syracuse beat Albany by 9 goals on Sunday? No, no I wasn’t. I have Syracuse as my #1 team in the country right now so that gave me some reason to believe the Orange could roll. I also like Albany in the overall Top 20 landscape, but a new-fangled UAlbany squad playing their first game against a humming Cuse engine (and with a win over Siena under its belt) did not inspire a ton of confidence.

All of the above being said, I still liked what I saw from Albany at times, and definitely think the Danes program will improve considerably over the course of the regular season. Check out some amazing game photos below, and then below that, read on for more analysis and predictions of future greatness!

Photo Credit: Jeff Melnik

Looking Forward – Syracuse

The Orange has a deep midfield. I made this claim in my season preview for the ACC, and now we’re seeing it as fact. Cuse may not have that “one guy” in the midfield, but they have six or seven REALLY good guys, and honestly, I’ll take that any day. Here’s why: The vast majority of top level middies can be shut down by really good team defenses, the best LSMS, or a truly superb SSDM. If you rely on a key player to get you goals from the midfield, you become predictable. While predictable midfield dodging can work in the regular season, it usually ends up biting teams right in the butt during the playoffs.

Syracuse really does not have this problem. The Orange have a ton of guys middies. That means that when one of these guys draws a pole, or is being covered by an excellent SSDM, the Cuse players can simply move the ball on with confidence, cut through, and KNOW that whoever is out there with them is a threat. Watch a team with a truly dominant middie and see if they play like that. 9 times out of 10 they don’t.

Sergio Salcido, Nick Mariano, Tim Barber, Derek DeJoe, Nick Weston, Tom Grimm, and Paolo Ciferri give the Orange plenty of experience, and a lot of scoring power. Add in guys like Matt Lane, Ryan Simmons, and Joe Gillis, who are all making their impacts felt early in 2016, and you have a truly deep, diverse, and talented group. Oh yeah, don’t forget Ben Williams, one of the best face off guys in the country, and also a threat to score, or jack someone up.

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I’m not even going to talk about the Cuse goaltending, defense, or attack, because all three look rock solid, and we’ll have time for that later. What matters to me is the Cuse midfield… it might just be the best, if not the deepest, in all of college lacrosse.

Looking Forward – Albany

Albany had moments where they looked really good, but about 70% of the time, the Danes look discombobulated. A big part of this was playing Syracuse in game 1, and another part was playing without Lyle Thompson. I really didn’t think the latter would matter as much as it did, but no one on Albany really seemed to want the ball in their stick all that much. Sure, guys dodged here and there, and did some stuff… they were playing lacrosse after all! But there wasn’t the same urgency or feeling of danger, and that is something the Danes need to get back ASAP.

Listen, I’m not saying someone needs to step up and become the next Lyle because, quite frankly, that’s just foolish. To use Cuse as an example… Mike Powell was the best I’ve ever seen for the Orange. That’s saying a lot, but it’s the way I feel on the subject. The point is, as good as Staats, Rice, Donahue or anyone to come ends up being, they won’t ever be MP. He was different. And so was Lyle! Hopefully, you see what I did up above with this and can figure out where I’m going with it…

Albany can have GREAT attackmen (just as Cuse did and does post MP), but don’t look for the next Lyle, because that’s not a thing.

So what does that mean for the Danes? It needs they need to cycle the ball faster, get the defense moving more, and initiate faster from this movement. Too many times against Cuse, Albany would cycle the ball really well, then get it to a dodger, who would slow it down, find a good lane, and set up their dodge. This is too slow to beat Syracuse, or any good team.

Dodging for Albany needs to come quickly, and from all over. If they can find 6+ real offensive weapons, they can be super dangerous still. We saw this when the UAlbany offense did come together, and play fast. With more of that, Albany can climb back to offensive excellence.

Face offs are another area that will require improvement, but I liked the Albany defense for the most part, and know Scott Marr will coach these guys up nicely as the year progresses more.

Syracuse is a top dog, at least for me, right now. Albany could get there, but they have some serious work to do before that happens.