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Men’s Soccer: Empty net syndrome

Greg Arbogast | Thursday, September 21, 2006

Junior Joseph Lapira was inches away from giving the Irish a hard-fought victory over Northern Illinois Wednesday night at Alumni Field. But the Huskies’ most important defender was their crossbar, which stopped Lapira’s shot and preserved the double-overtime, 0-0 tie.

In the 86th minute, Lapira received a pass outside the 18-yard line, pushed the ball past his defender and unleashed a shot that had the keeper beat. The ball ricocheted back off the iron, as the Irish missed their best chance to wrestle away victory.

Notre Dame’s lack of scoring was certainly not because of a lack of opportunities. Notre Dame outshot Northern Illinois 24 to 7, (15 to 4 shots on goal) in the second half and two overtimes. The Irish also held the edge in corner kicks by a 10-to-3 margin.

“We had some very good chances that we didn’t take,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “If you watch soccer, it’s not always the team that has the most possessions or the most shots that wins, it’s the team that takes their chances.”

Notre Dame almost found itself on the wrong side of the scoreboard in the first overtime despite controlling the pace. Northern Illinois senior Justin McGrane put a low cross in from the end-line where teammate Marcus McCarty’s touch took him past his defender. Only a reflex save from Irish senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill kept McGrane’s shot from giving the Huskies the victory.

“Cahill made a very good save [on McGrane],” Clark said. “If that shot goes in, we lose a game that we dominated, and that’s happened to us a couple of times already this season.”

Notre Dame had its share of chances in overtime as well.

Its best opportunity came in the 105th minute when Lapira threaded a through ball to fellow forward Justin McGeeney. Northern Illinois sophomore keeper Joe Zimka came sliding out to clear the ball, which went straight to the feet of Lapira. Lapira shot the ball toward the empty net, but Huskies defender Josh Karsten came flying back to clear the ball off the line.

Although the Irish created chances in regulation time, they were hindered by Northern Illinois’s 4-5-1 formations, which allowed the Huskies to put most of their players back on defense and counter-attack.

“[Their formation] forced us to keep working the ball and to be patient,” Clark said. “You ended up with 21 players in one half of the field. There wasn’t a lot of space.”

With the tie, Notre Dame’s record stands at 4-3-2 for the season and 2-2-0 in Big East play. The Irish will next take on Pittsburgh at home on Saturday night, and despite his team’s goose egg on Wednesday, Clark is optimistic that the scoring will come.

“We’re making chances, but we’re not finishing them off,” Clark said. “We’re very much at the forming stages right now.”

Notes:

u Wednesday night was the fourth consecutive start for senior goalkeeper Chris Cahill. After the game, Clark confirmed that Cahill earned the starting job for now.