Men's Soccer

Tajon Buchanan’s creativity and on-ball skills leading to successful start at Syracuse

Josh Shub-Seltzer | Contributing Photographer

Buchanan's on-ball skills and creativity came from watching Cristiano Ronaldo YouTube videos before spending hours practicing

The first thing defenders notice about Tajon Buchanan is his speed. Against Virginia on Sept. 8, Buchanan charged down the middle of the field as three defenders surrounded him. He noticed open space to his left and pressed toward green inside the penalty area.

Before he could make another move, a fourth defender tripped him from behind. Buchanan’s teammate, junior transfer Hugo Delhommelle, knocked in Syracuse’s first goal on the ensuing penalty kick to open the scoring in an eventual 2-2 tie.

“Tajon is just magic on the ball,” junior forward Adnan Bakalovic said. “A great addition to this team.”

Early in his career, Buchanan has turned into an essential piece in Syracuse’s (3-0-2, 0-0-1 Atlantic Coast) attack that lost two forwards — Chris Nanco to graduation, Kenny Lassiter to La Salle via transfer — and a lot of scoring. In five games, the freshman has tallied two goals and one assist, including a game-winner in the team’s season-opener against St. Louis.

Head coach Ian McIntyre lauded Buchanan’s skill on the ball combined with his speed. Buchanan, a 6-foot native of Canada, moved to Colorado with a family friend to play soccer at Legacy (Colorado) High School.

“I think it was a good opportunity to pick up my grades,” Buchanan said. “But more importantly, play good soccer.”

When he was 6, Buchanan began playing soccer before quitting in favor of other sports. Five years later, he realized soccer could give him a future, so he started again. He watched his favorite player, now-Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, on YouTube to learn ball skills and new techniques. He spent hours on the practice field mastering the moves before he took advantage of lesser talent in games.

Buchanan used his ball skills to score 21 goals and tally 10 assists his senior year at Legacy, earning Colorado State Gatorade Player of the Year. At SU, he said he doesn’t employ many of Ronaldo’s tricks, but his teammates notice his creativity anyway. One of the strikers in the Orange’s 3-5-2 formation, Buchanan has taken defenders out wide in the wings or in the middle of the penalty box.

“We’ve seen a mini-version of Chris Nanco in him,” Bakalovic said. “When you give him the ball, if he’s isolated one-on-one with someone, you just get out of the way and let him do his thing.”

On Sept. 3 against Northwestern, Buchanan played a part in all three of Syracuse’s goals. In the first minute, he cut through two defenders on the right wing with a stutter step and a fake shot that turned the Wildcats around. He then passed the ball to the far post and watched as Bakalovic scored with ease.

Ten minutes later, a defender shadowed Buchanan and didn’t notice sophomore forward Johannes Pieles leak into open space, resulting in the second goal. Just nine minutes after that, Buchanan rose up in the box and hit a header over NU’s keeper, making it 3-0.

When he’s on the ball, the crowd notices. Whenever Buchanan has the ball at his feet, some fans at SU Soccer Stadium stand and crane their necks to Buchanan weave through the defense.

“I’ve never seen a player like that,” junior midfielder Jonathan Hagman said. “So technical and so fast. He has a lot of potential in him.”

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