Much of the world is gripped by the gravity of the World Cup semifinals. France punched its ticket to the final with a 1-0 victory over Belgium. England and Croatia will duke it out to determine who faces Les Bleus on Saturday.
Thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, Syracuse soccer is ramping up for another season of action. Eight years ago, it is difficult to imagine Syracuse having any kind of bearing on the 2022 World Cup. Yet in 2018, it is entirely possible.
The history of Syracuse soccer is uninspiring. Prior to 2010, it had made the NCAA tournament once. That 1984 team lost in the first round to Hartwick 3-1. Ironically, it would be Hartwick who produced the savior of Syracuse soccer about a decade later.
Ian McIntyre played at Hartwick during the early 90s, being named First Team All-American in 1995. Immediately after graduating, he broke into coaching at Fairfield University as an assistant. In 1999, he became the head coach at SUNY-Oneonta. McIntyre then returned to his alma mater to coach from 2003 to 2009.
In 2010, McIntyre became the 15th coach in Syracuse program history. While his first two seasons with the team were mired with mediocrity, he began to turn things around in 2012.
2012 was the first year since 1984 the Orange qualified for the NCAA tournament. After missing the tournament in 2013, McIntyre guided Syracuse to three straight appearances, including the best season in program history in 2015 when the Orange won the ACC Tournament and reached the semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
McIntyre completely changed the image of Syracuse soccer. From 2001 to 2009, the Orange won just 55 games. Since McIntyre took over, Syracuse has won 78 games.
There are so many ways to measure the greatness McIntyre has inspired at Syracuse. From 1952 to 2013, Syracuse produced three All-American players. McIntyre’s Orange teams produced three in as many years from 2014-16. From 2000 to 2014, Syracuse had three players drafted in the MLS SuperDraft. Since 2015, Syracuse has had 10 players drafted, including 5 in the first round.
These players are making an impact at the professional level too. Mo Adams has started nine games for the Chicago Fire this season. Julian Bueshcer made 27 appearances for D.C. United over two seasons before moving to the USL. Miles Robinson has made six appearances this season for Atlanta United and featured in the U.S. U-20 National Team. It’s not just the MLS either. Oyvind Alseth joined up with Ranheim in the top division in Norway, making seven appearances so far this season.
While a few have found moderate success, the most accomplished player from the McIntyre era at Syracuse is easily Alex Bono. The 24-year old keeper started 28 games for Toronto FC in 2017 and won the MLS Cup. He set records for clean sheets and wins for the club. Bono took his successes a step further this past May when he earned his first cap for the U.S. Men’s National Team in a friendly against Bolivia.
Back to where we started here with the World Cup. The United States infamously missed the 2018 edition in Russia. The focus for this team already has to be shifted to securing qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It is very possible Bono would be at the center of that qualifying process and, should the U.S. achieve qualification, the ensuing World Cup.
Bono seems poised to at least have a chance. None of the keepers to feature in the national team since the U.S. failed to qualify have more than six international caps to their name. He would be 28 years old when the next World Cup rolls around, an age when most keepers are entering their prime.
As McIntyre’s tenure rolls into its ninth season at the helm of Syracuse, the fact Bono is a member of the U.S. National team at all is a testament to everything the coach has accomplished with the Orange.