MSOC : Freshmen defenders Thomas and Murrell bring chemistry developed in Canada to SU

first_img Published on September 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @chris_iseman Skylar Thomas received a rude introduction to college soccer. In his first start for Syracuse, the freshman was overwhelmed by the speed and strength of Colgate’s players.Compared to high school, it was a different game.The only form of familiarity Thomas found was in Jordan Murrell, a fellow freshman defender and his teammate on the Canadian national U-18 team. And Murrell’s presence on the field helped calm Thomas’ nerves.‘I was actually really nervous. I wasn’t used to the college game, I guess. I didn’t know what to expect,’ Thomas said. ‘It was a little sense of relief but I’m pretty sure he was as nervous as me, probably.’Thomas and Murrell have known each other almost six years, having played against each other in club soccer matches in Canada and then together on the national U-18 team earlier this year. Both have earned starting spots in their freshmen seasons at Syracuse, a goal they set together and pushed each other to accomplish.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Canadian teammates have been in the starting lineup for all of the Orange’s (2-2) four games to this point. They’ll get their first taste of a big game for Syracuse this weekend when the team plays Cal Poly (2-1-2) and No. 16 New Mexico (4-0-1) at the University of Akron Tournament.Both are still getting accustomed to this level of play, but playing against tougher competition before SU opens its Big East schedule is something head coach Ian McIntyre hopes will benefit the young defenders.‘I think Jordan and Skylar have started very well. This will also be another big test for them,’ McIntyre said. ‘… But they’re learning a lot on the job. It’s been a good start to their Syracuse careers.’The good start has been a product of the chemistry they had already established playing together in Canada. They’re friends off the field, and Thomas said having someone making the same transition to the college game helps ease the growing pains that come with it.Thomas showed his inexperience on Sunday in SU’s 2-1 overtime win over American. His mental lapse late in the game on a play in the box led to the Eagles scoring their lone goal. He said he’s still working on staying focused for all 90 minutes.But focus is one of the few parts of his game that needs improvement.During a tournament with the national team earlier this year, Thomas didn’t play much for the first half of Canada’s schedule. But when Thomas finally saw time, Murrell said he noticed a change in Canada’s defensive unit for the better.‘He came on, he made a very big impact, he held his own,’ Murrell said. ‘And after that, the whole camp, he started every game.’During their time with the Canadian team, they had no idea they’d ever be teammates at Syracuse and never discussed the possibility.But when SU assistant coach Mike Miller told Thomas he was recruiting a player named Jordan from the Toronto FC Academy, Thomas immediately knew Miller was talking about Murrell. Soon after, Thomas went on Facebook and contacted Murrell, who told him he was indeed going to play for the Orange.The teammates developed a relationship playing together for Canada. The more they played on the same field, the better they got at communicating with each other.And that level of communication has carried into their first four games for SU as starting center backs.When Thomas yells ‘watch your shoulder’ to Murrell during games, Murrell knows exactly what he’s talking about and which shoulder he needs to watch.‘When we have to mark a defender, and we both step, and we’re both talking and we’re both encouraging each other during the game,’ Murrell said. ‘We just communicate very well. Even off the pitch, we’re always hanging out and talking.’When they got to Syracuse, Thomas and Murrell talked about their individual goals for the season. Both wanted to start even though they didn’t expect to. Still, they challenged each other to work hard during the preseason to achieve their shared goal.It paid off as they outplayed their competition on the Orange defense and McIntyre made them starters.‘We made it our goal to start,’ Thomas said. ‘We put as much effort toward it as we could. We made it, I guess.’After four games, the transition has gotten easier. It’s still the same game Thomas and Murrell were playing in Canada. But when times get tough again, Thomas knows he can turn to Murrell.‘It’s good I have someone to talk to,’ Thomas said. ‘I know him as a player and as a friend, so we’re able to build on that relationship and go further.’[email protected] Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img