Published on October 7, 2014 at 12:12 am Contact Sam: firstname.lastname@example.org | @SamBlum3 Facebook Twitter Google+ Alex Bono always wanted to stop the ball. When he was 3 years old, he’d set up a net in his kitchen and pretend to be a hockey goalie. When he played Little League baseball, he only wanted to play catcher. And when he started playing soccer in first grade, there was only one position he would play. “Goalies kind of have to have a little intuition to them, it’s not something that can be taught,” said his mother, Kim Bono. “It has to be something you just sense. I just think he just had a great sense of the game. “He always enjoyed being that person to block the shot.” He is built to block that shot.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBono’s 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame, quick reflexes and feet make him the consummate keeper in size and skill. Layer in his level-headed mentality, experience and ability to communicate and Syracuse gets the nation’s top collegiate goalie, as far as numbers can see. He captains the defense, leading No. 9 Syracuse (9-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast) to its best start in program history. Out of the 41 shots that have come his way this season, he’s saved 40. In the 10 games Syracuse has played, nine have been shutouts.“It’s not my job to do the classifying of the type of goalie that I am,” Bono said. “I’ll leave that up to the other people and I’ll just try and shape the classification that they put me in.”Bono jokes around with his teammates that he’d like to be a few inches taller. Being one of three 6-foot-3 players on the team, those complaints often fall on deaf ears. Bono said goalies can be anywhere between 5-foot-5 and 7 feet, and claims to be average in height. But Bono has more than height. His wingspan is 76 inches. His hands are 8 1/2 inches tall. When he was boy, he’d compare hand-sizes with his 6-foot-2 grandfather. When the two pressed their palms together, Bono’s were always bigger. “He had big feet, big hands, it was like, ‘Great, you’re going to grow into those and be tall,’” Kim Bono said. “… It’s kind of like when you buy a puppy and they have big paws, and you’re like ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a huge dog.’ He was always the big-boned boy.” But it was also his size that forced him to focus on improving his natural quickness. Following his senior year at C.W. Baker (New York) High School in Baldwinsville, he started training three days a week with Pete Rowley, a former SU and professional soccer player. It was with Rowley that Bono worked on his lateral movement and reaction time.Rowley would take away Bono’s other abilities to hone in on one. Sometimes that meant forcing him to make saves from his knees to mimic an in-game situation where he’d have to make multiple back-to-back stops. He’d make Bono make a save while turning around from facing the goal. The purpose was to heighten his neurological responses by taking away other senses, Rowley said.To improve his lateral movement, Rowley would put him through resistance training. He’d attach his legs to cords and force him to move side-to-side. Rowley tried to recreate him defending breakaways by having him jump hurdles before making saves.“Alex has all the innate abilities that you want in a goalkeeper,” Rowley said.Bono’s experience, which extends past starting all but one game since coming to SU, has aided his development. In high school he played for Empire United of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy system. He was a member of the United States under-18 National Soccer Team player pool. After his freshman and sophomore seasons at Syracuse, he spent his summers playing for Reading United of the Premier Development League. In the PDL he worked on his live-ball distribution to teammates. He worked on managing the game, in terms of figuring out when his passing should be quick and when it should be slower and more deliberate. “No matter what environment you’re in, it can become a little monotonous after a while, and that’s why I think the PDL is a valuable tool,” said Reading United head coach Brendan Burke. “…But it’s refreshing for a player or a coach to be in a different environment.” Then there’s Bono’s mental makeup, adding the final dimension to his game. He prides himself on his communication skills, saying that there’s a tree of communication with the rest of the players on the field. He’s the stump.Bono commands the Orange defense, telling his teammates when to step and when to hold their line. They, in turn, communicate with the players on offense.The best goalies are doing their job if the ball never comes their way, Bono said.“He’s got a very calm demeanor, and I think that’s very important at that position,” SU head coach Ian McIntyre said. “You’re not looking for an anxious goalkeeper. You want to be able to turn around and ultimately know that everything’s OK.” This season, in part, has been a celebration of Bono’s prowess. He has an uncompromising defense in front of him and just one shot that’s gotten past him.Bono classifies himself as both orthodox and unorthodox. The orthodox part is his physical build that sets him up to dominate and the technical skills that ensure he does. The unorthodox part is when those technical skills don’t come in handy, when a play breaks down, he can still stop the ball. “As far as his height and his quickness,” Rowley said. “There are very few goalkeepers in the country that can offer both.” Comments
At 1.30pm, Sunderland entertain Tottenham at the Stadium of Light. Dick Advocaat’s side are still searching for their first win of the season to move them out of the relegation zone. Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-1 yesterday evening in Old Trafford. United ran out convincing winners and afterwards Brendan Rodgers said he has to go back to the drawing board Jack Grealish and Adama Traore both face late fitness tests to be included, At 4 o’clock Leicester take on Aston Villa at the King Power Stadium. They’ll have to deal with Tottenham striker Harry Kane who is yet to get off the mark in the league, but scored for England over the international break.