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Kamal Miller’s right knee is the linchpin of SU’s defense

first_imgBefore Syracuse’s 3-2 loss to No.12 Notre Dame, Kamal Miller shifted his weight from foot to foot and jogged around the SU Soccer Stadium in a blue, long-sleeve warmup shirt. He skied passes to fellow defender Len Zeugner, routinely using his left leg instead of his right.The crux of the Orange backline — Miller’s right knee — was wrapped tightly. It was the only sign of a Grade 1 knee strain, confirmed by SU head coach Ian McIntyre last Tuesday, that threatened to derail SU’s season two weeks after it started. “It felt really great,” Miller said of his knee after the game. “I didn’t feel any problems at all.” Syracuse (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) has conceded three goals in each of its last two games. Despite beating Hofstra, 4-3, on Sept. 2, Miller’s absence was apparent. His value was only highlighted after his performance against Notre Dame. McIntyre said the team will examine how Miller responds to treatment after exerting himself last Friday. The other key defenders, Sondre Norheim and Zeugner, have a combined one year of experience in Syracuse’s 3-5-2 defensive formation. Norheim, a sophomore, and Zeugner, a grad-transfer from Boston College, scrambled after Hofstra forwards and left goalie Hendrik Hilpert on an island. Miller’s health will be key for SU to rebound after falling back to .500 headed into a matchup at Cornell (3-0) Monday night.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I just needed a little rest,” Miller said. “I’m happy I got the opportunity to play.” Miller was injured two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon, on Aug. 26. The senior was listed as “day-to-day” by McIntyre on Tuesday, and Miller said he spent “all week” with assistant athletic trainer Mike Mangano, “involved” in practice.In the opening minutes against ND, Miller’s knee was a nonfactor. During Notre Dame’s first possession, a pass from midfield was directed at Miller. Calmly, he rose up and headed it away. A moment later, he intercepted another pass with his head, this time triggering an SU run. “He did well at his capacity,” midfielder Hugo Delhommelle said. “He came back as the player we expect. He was a captain and a leader. We needed him.” Miller slotted in the left side of SU’s three-defender backline, his same position from last season. Syracuse’s offense benefited from the extra possession, generating high-quality scoring chances. While SU controlled possession in ND’s defensive third, Miller shuffled toward the middle of the field, acting as a center fielder. On one ND breakaway in the first half, Miller sprinted away from the SU bench and dispossessed the forward. A minute later, the Fighting Irish attacking the opposite end of the field, Miller tracked back and knocked the ball away with a slide tackle.“I think I had a good match,” Miller said. “I’d say I fatigued towards the end.”  With Syracuse trailing late in the second half, Miller exhausted himself by getting involved in SU’s offense. He attempted a bicycle kick but mishit the ball. He worked a give-and-go with Jonathan Hagman and sailed a shot over the net. Afterward, Miller jogged to midfield, taking his post back as the Orange’s premier defender. The effort earned him applause from SU Soccer Stadium, his importance recognized. “He’s been out of practice,” McIntyre said. “We put him in this big game … That character, that personality allowed him to hang out there.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 10, 2018 at 12:14 am Contact Nick: nialvare@syr.edu | @nick_a_alvarezlast_img

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