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MEN’S SOCCER: Irish miss opportunities, fall to No. 9 Huskies

Kevin Brennan | Monday, October 10, 2005

Great performances are not always recorded in the win-loss column.

Notre Dame turned in one of its best games of the season Saturday, but still fell 2-1 to the No. 9 Connecticut Huskies. The Irish dominated play for the majority of the afternoon, but failed to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities.

“Soccer can be a cruel game,” head coach Bobby Clark said. “I thought the team played superbly well – possibly as well as we’ve played all season.”

UConn’s Julius James opened the scoring in the 21st minute by recording his second goal of the season. James headed a Ryan Cordeiro cross past Irish goalkeeper Chris Cahill to put the Huskies up 1-0.

Following the goal, Notre Dame took control of the game. At halftime, Notre Dame had recorded five shots, and UConn had mustered just two. The Irish took eight corner kicks in the first half, while the Huskies only took one.

Five minutes into the second half, Notre Dame almost evened the score. Sophomore midfielder Alex Yoshinaga fired a laser from 25 yards away, but the shot hit the left post.

Minutes later, UConn extended its lead. Cordeiro collected a ball that ricocheted off a UConn attacker and a Notre Dame defender and found the back of the net. The goal, coupled with his assist on James’ score, brought Cordeiro’s season point total to 13.

The Irish responded quickly, as senior defender Ben Crouse put Notre Dame on the board four minutes after Cordeiro scored. Crouse headed in a pass from junior defender Ryan Miller to cut the UConn lead to 2-1. The assist was Miller’s third on the year, tying him with forward Joe Lapira and midfielder John Stephens for the team lead.

“I was hoping to get us back on track,” Crouse said. “But it just wasn’t enough.”

Clark was thrilled for Crouse. The goal was the first of the defender’s career.

“It was great for Benny, because Benny’s been working very hard all season and playing very well all year,” Clark said.

After Crouse’s goal, the Irish continued to pressure the Huskies. Notre Dame consistently kept the ball on UConn’s half of the field for the remainder of the game and had several chances to score.

With 23 minutes remaining, junior midfielder Nate Norman beat two defenders to get a clear shot from just inside the box. Norman’s shot sailed just high, though, and the Irish still trailed.

Notre Dame’s final scoring opportunity came with just 15 seconds left in the game. But midfielder Ian Etherington, who had a game-high five shots, also missed high.

“We had several that were just very close, but you know we didn’t finish. We didn’t execute,” Clark said.

Notre Dame finished the game with a 15-7 shot advantage. The Irish also took 11 corner kicks in the game compared to just five for UConn.

“To be fair, they gave us a lesson in that,” Clark said. “It’s not how many shots you have. It’s not how much you have the ball. It’s what you do with your chances.”

Notre Dame once again played without one of its three captains, as center back Dale Rellas sat the game out with an injury. Greg Dalby moved back from his usual center midfield position to take Rellas’ place.

Notre Dame travels to East Lansing Tuesday for an out-of-conference matchup with Michigan State. Clark hopes the team’s outstanding play from Saturday will carry over.

“It was as good a performance as I’ve had ever from any team,” the 28-year coaching veteran said. “Now the test is to get back and get it going again.”