Chris Nanco sacrifices time at forward to serve midfield role

first_imgSeattle’s Alex Roldan streaked down the right side of the field, behind the Syracuse back line, and into open space in front of the Orange’s 18-yard box.As Seattle forward Michael Roberts fed a pass to Roldan, Syracuse forward Chris Nanco overtook Roldan from behind and used his body to shield his opponent from the ball before SU goalie Hendrik Hilpert could run out and scoop it up.“Well done, Chris,” head coach Ian McIntyre yelled from the sideline. “Good job.”Nanco is usually praised for his attacking ability rather than his defensive prowess. He leads Syracuse with 64 shots on the season and is often the fastest down the sideline for the Orange attack.But in the last two games, Nanco has had to sacrifice his attacking role in favor of a more defensive midfield spot — something he’s done just a handful of times this season. The switch makes Syracuse (16-5-3, 3-4-1 Atlantic Coast) more athletic in the midfield, McIntyre said, and helps it shut down other teams’ threatening players as the Orange continues its run into the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Chris has that ability to play a couple different roles for us and he has the athleticism, that energy that really can unbalance teams,” McIntyre said.During Nanco’s first two seasons, the Orange had a versatile midfield, he said, including Nick Perea, who was a box-to-box player that could run up and down the field. Save for a few rare occasions, Nanco wasn’t needed in the midfield so he could focus all of his efforts on attacking.With Perea and others gone this year, SU doesn’t have the same speed and athleticism in the center of the field, which forced McIntyre to turn the forward to do the job.“It’s a big role,” Nanco said. “I kind of like the challenge. I embrace it and show that I’m more athletic than the other guy.”When he’s in the midfield, Nanco is often stuck on the most athletic player on the other team to nullify him. He’s tasked with following his man up and down the field, making sure he doesn’t get behind the defense, and beating him down the field when Syracuse goes on offense.Seattle was a team that thrived on dominating the ball in the midfield, McIntyre said. In Syracuse’s Sweet 16 win over the Redhawks on Nov. 29, Nanco marked Roland, one of the team’s midfielders, and held him without a shot.“We had to kind of tweak things to try to ensure that that became a strong part of the pitch for us and Chris allowed us to do that,” McIntyre said.Because of his years at forward, he sometimes turns off the defensive switch in his brain and forgets to drop back. Defender Louis Cross said he’s had to yell at Nanco a few times because Nanco’s man was getting down the field unmarked.Nanco said the move puts him in a more supporting role to the attack, but McIntyre said in a way, it helps Nanco’s offense. He isn’t a natural target, McIntyre said. Being able to run behind the play and get the ball in space instead of taking on multiple defenders as the furthest man up on the attack is helpful to his game, he added.“When the ball is moving, when Chris is moving, he’s a handful,” McIntyre said. “When Chris is stationary, he’s not as dangerous. That’s what we try to do. If Chris is moving, then we’re a dynamic team.”Cross said Nanco probably doesn’t look like a very defensive-minded player to opponents. Nanco added that having to drop back “sucks” at times.But his ability to move from forward to the midfield has been crucial during Syracuse’s postseason run.“He’s got a duty to do,” Cross said, “and he’s done it terrifically.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on December 9, 2015 at 12:02 am Contact Jon: jrmettus@syr.edu | @jmettuslast_img

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