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MEN’S SOCCER: Irish set to lock horns with Bradley tonight

Tom Brennan | Wednesday, September 28, 2005

After falling to 2-2 in Big East play with Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Cincinnati, the Notre Dame’s men’s soccer team (5-3) is hoping to return to its winning ways today against out-of-conference foe Bradley.

Bradley enters the contest with an impressive 6-2 record, having won three straight games.

In 2004, the Braves lost to Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship.

Bradley has not played extremely stiff competition so far this year, but Irish head coach Bobby Clark expects to face a solid opponent.

“The fact that they’ve won six of their last eight games says it all for me,” Clark said. “They’re going to be a very good team.”

The Irish and the Braves are somewhat familiar with each other. The two teams did not play in 2004, but met in each of the three previous seasons, with Notre Dame winning two of the three contests.

Notre Dame has dropped two of its last four games. The Irish opened Big East play with a road loss to conference power St. John’s. The team responded by defeating Syracuse and then edging Louisville 2-1 Friday. On Sunday, though, Notre Dame could not capitalize on its second-half scoring opportunities and fell 2-1 to No. 15 Cincinnati.

With the loss to the Bearcats, the Irish fell out of the Soccer America top 25 for the first time all year. But Clark is not very concerned with where his team is rated midseason.

“It’s where you are at the end of the year,” Clark said. “The final ranking is the one that you are most excited about.”

Nonetheless, the coach acknowledges that his team must play better as the season moves forward.

Clark says that the team has played extremely well in spots this season, but he would like to see more consistency on a regular game to game basis.

“I’d like to be 8-0, but we’re not,” Clark said. “Obviously, we’re not where we want to be, but I think we are making progress, and we’ve got to keep working at it. We’ve got to start putting a complete game together.”

One area in which the Irish hope to get better is goal scoring.

Much of Notre Dame’s scoring this year has come from the midfield.

Midfielders Nate Norman, Ian Etherington, Alex Yoshinaga, John Stephens and Greg Dalby are five of the team’s top six scorers.

The team is currently averaging 1.33 goals per game – a decent pace, but one with which the Irish are certainly not satisfied.

With the great parity that exists in the highly competitive world of men’s soccer, high-scoring games prove hard to come by.

“There’s not many easy games out there,” Clark said. “As long as you are getting one more than the opposition, you are happy.”

Despite not being part of the Big East schedule, Wednesday’s game is very important to Notre Dame. Bradley is a solid opponent, and the Irish know that a victory will look good when the post-season arrives.

“Every game matters because we are trying to get to the tournament,” Clark said. “These games here are very important for the Midwest regional status.”