Needed team cohesion comes via traditional, unexpected avenues for SU men’s soccer

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm L.J. Papaleo’s teammates decided that of all the characters from The Lord of the Rings, he was one of the big trees, perhaps because of his 6-foot-2 frame. Brett Jankouskas took the liberty of designating himself Legolas, due to his desire to portray Orlando Bloom’s heroic character. Each of the other players watching The Lord of the Rings during the soccer team’s weekend away game at the Mayor’s Cup was also given a character. The sudden foray into The Lord of Rings is merely a blip on the screen for this young team in its first season under head coach Ian McIntyre as it tries to mesh. The movie won’t provide any wins. The character assignments won’t lead to any losses. But the characters assigned, based on each player’s personality and role on the team, were a small and unique part in bringing Syracuse’s chemistry together just that much more. Even if it was on a night when the players were stuck in a hotel in Oneonta, N.Y. ‘There are no distractions,’ senior midfielder Geoff Lytle said. ‘You spend the whole time together. I don’t know if you’d call it activities, but you do stuff together, eat together all the time, get to know your teammates.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text The bonding is particularly important given the team has only 10 returning players. It is a must. The Orange hopes this strengthened sense of team will help in its game against American Saturday. The Eagles will be among the tougher teams SU will face this season. Its record of 2-2 perhaps does not do American justice. Its first loss came against George Mason, a team receiving votes towards a national ranking, and its second came against No. 5 Monmouth. ‘There’s a reason we set up some of these teams, which is to replicate some of our Big East schedule,’ McIntyre said. ‘American’s a good team. They’ve got some good players. They play a good brand of attacking soccer. It’s going to be a very difficult game on the road.’ Coming off a weekend away, however, SU is better equipped to face its next opponent. Assistant coach Jukka Masalin was in charge of room assignments for SU’s stay in Oneonta. The players did not know who they would be rooming with until they arrived at the hotel. Assignments were mostly random. Lytle said injured players were relegated to the floor because they were not playing, and some players slept on couches. Floor or couch, the movies ensued. In spite of some obscure sleeping arrangements, the team has also passed another milestone: its first win. The victory came last Friday against Northeastern on a free kick in overtime by junior midfielder Nick Roydhouse. McIntyre described the locker room after the game as ‘buzzing with excitement.’ Despite losing 2-0 to Columbia on Sunday, the effects of the team coming together have already been manifested on the field. Players are getting to know each other’s playing styles better as they spend more time together off the field. ‘I know now that Federico [Agreda] wants the ball to his feet and Fredrik [Forsman] wants the ball to space,’ Papaleo said. The fluidity of play on the field starts with the eradicating problems off the field. Last year’s team suffered a lot from intra-squad conflict. This year, however, Papaleo said the team is less cliquey and feels more like one unit. And Lytle said not only does this unity allow players to find each other better on the field, but it also makes practices better. ‘You don’t want problems to get in the way of team chemistry,’ he said. ‘If someone has problems with a certain player, that really affects training, that really affects chemistry on the field.’ Away games in general give the team an opportunity to bond. On the trip to Adelphi, the team followed a pep talk by McIntyre with a viewing of Titanic. The trip to American will provide the Orange with a seven-hour bus ride to become better acquainted. More of a traditional form of bonding comes with that bus ride. This team is not limited to Academy Award-winning movies. Lytle said that players do not have assigned seats on the bus but rather look for the seats in the best location. The random distribution allows players to mix, whether they are transfers, freshmen or returning players. The characters can mingle. ‘It’s nice to go away,’ McIntyre said. ‘Now, having said that, we’d like a home game.’ [email protected]center_img Commentslast_img