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Men’s Soccer: Finding ways to win

Joe Meixell | Monday, October 13, 2008

After a brief detour into a non-conference portion of its schedule, No. 14 Notre Dame returned to Big East play Saturday, and three second-half goals propelled the Irish to a resounding 4-1 win over Pittsburgh to keep them in first place of the Big East Blue Division.

Trailing Notre Dame by three points, the Panthers (6-5-2, 2-4-1) came to Alumni Field with hopes of pulling even with the Irish (8-3-1, 4-1-1) atop the conference standings. It looked promising for Pittsburgh early on. An energetic start by the Panthers put Notre Dame on its heels culminating in a Pittsburgh lead in the seventh minute when Irish defender Jack Traynor deflected a cross into his own net.

“We started a little bit slack at the beginning of the game,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I really don’t know why that would be. Full marks to Pittsburgh. They really outworked us at first, and that forced us into putting an own goal away.”

The Panthers lead was short lived. After the own-goal, the Irish settled down and began to possess the ball and control the game. The first breakthrough came in the 23rd minute when midfielder Michael Thomas fed defender Matt Besler who beat Pittsburgh keeper Jordan Marks for his first goal of the season.

Notre Dame continued pressing the rest of the half dominating everywhere but the scoreboard as the teams would enter the locker rooms tied at one.

“We talked a lot about patience even before the game,” Clark said. “That was our theme. We said you have to be patient because they’re well-organized in the back. They sit a lot of guys, and try to counter and play for set pieces.”

Clark’s players heard the message loud and clear. After outshooting Pitt 9-4 in the first half, Notre Dame picked up the pressure right where it left off before the intermission, and the end result would be a flurry of goals that’s becoming somewhat commonplace for this team’s potent offense.

The go-ahead goal came in the 58th minute when junior midfielder Justin Morrow crossed the ball finding classmate Dave Donahue who deposited the service to register his fifth goal of the season.

Senior forward Bright Dike continued his personal scoring streak putting the game away in the 80th minute with a rocket shot from inside the box. Dike has now scored in six consecutive games, and he leads the team with nine goals and 21 points.

Freshman Brendan King put the finishing touches on the game in extra-time notching his first career Notre Dame goal. Sophomore Jeb Brovsky’s shot clanged the far post, but King was there to collect the rebound and tally the game’s final goal.

Saturday’s balanced and explosive scoring attack was nothing new for the Irish. The four goals by four different players marked the sixth time this season that Notre Dame has registered at least three different goal scorers in a game. It was also the fourth time that the Irish have reached the four goal plateau in a game.

“It’s a fabulous attacking team,” Clark said. “It’s hard to single out individuals, and on any given day somebody different can step up. It’s without a doubt the most potent attacking team I’ve had in my eight years here.”

Notre Dame and its in-form offense will return to the pitch on Thursday when they travel to Bloomington to take on in-state rival Indiana. The game is schedule to start at 7:30 p.m.