Men's Soccer

Johannes Pieles could be the spark Syracuse needs on offense

Courtesy of SU Athletic Communications

Syracuse has needed an offensive spark, but Johannes Pieles could be just that.

In his first weekend of college soccer, Johannes Pieles tallied an assist, a multi-score game and a game-winner in double overtime. Then he notched another game-winner against Hofstra and helped break a scoreless first half with a nifty pass against No. 15 Boston College.

Pieles had accounted for half of Syracuse’s goals three games into the year.

“When he came over people were thinking like, who’s this guy?” senior midfielder Oyvind Alseth said.

That soon changed for Pieles, who hails from a small town outside of Munich, Germany. The 6-foot-1, 173-pound freshman forward had been one of Syracuse’s most dangerous threats. But for the second half of the year — until SU’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game at Clemson — he had been scrapped from the starting lineup.

Back at starting forward, Pieles could bolster Syracuse’s (11-3-4, 3-2-3 Atlantic Coast) offense like he did early in the season, when he earned the starting job over redshirt junior Kenny Lassiter. The Orange begins the NCAA tournament Sunday at 2 p.m. at SU Soccer Stadium against either Dartmouth or St. Francis Brooklyn.

Pieles’ unpredictability and fearlessness made him invaluable for Syracuse early on. His impact had been at the center of an SU unit off to its best start in program history. He started in all but one of the Orange’s first 12 games.

He would often call for the ball in or around the 18-yard box. He’d receive it and either glide it to open teammates or look for an open space to dribble. But Pieles’ style of play also made him more likely to make mistakes, part of why he lost his starting spot after SU’s loss at Louisville last month.

Playing up front, Pieles has conceded some balls and missed defensive assignments and missed wide on shots. Pieles hasn’t scored on his last 22 tries and hasn’t recorded a point since Sept. 16. SU defender Mo Adams, pointed to the ACC’s defenses as to why Pieles’ production slowed.

“The first few games he didn’t know what to expect,” Adams said.

Pieles earned a start at Clemson, though, after he and Kyle Gurrieri, who’s played in each of SU’s last three games, stayed in the gym for extra sessions. McIntyre rewarded Gurrieri with the opportunity to travel with the team and Pieles with the start. At Clemson, Pieles just missed a shot on goal that could have won the game.

The play mirrored the maturity and skill Pieles showed from the first week, when he anticipated a fast-break opportunity after Liam Callahan found a ball near midfield. Pieles broke toward the 18-yard box while Callahan passed it to Kenny Lassiter. Lassiter hit Pieles in stride, leading to a two-man game.

Pieles split the middle before rifling a scorcher back to Lassiter in the box. It was an advanced play for the freshman, who had sensed the break several passes earlier. Despite his hiccups, Pieles’ nine points places third on the team and his 35 shots are second only to senior forward Chris Nanco’s 51.

“Well, anytime somebody scores a couple of goals and gets the game winner in overtime, that’s not a bad way to start your opening weekend at Syracuse,” head coach Ian McIntyre said. “And he’s still finding his feet. He’ll get sharper. He’ll get better.”

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