Men’s Soccer: Powers leads freshman class
Laura Myers | Saturday, August 22, 2009
The Irish may be able to make up for past mistakes Monday, if only symbolically, before moving on to a new stadium and another chance to win a championship.
Northwestern shocked Notre Dame in 2008 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, beating Notre Dame 2-1 and knocking them out of contention for the College Cup.
Now the teams return to the same field before the start of their 2009 campaigns in a preseason match-up – and it will most likely be the last game the Irish play at the old Alumni field.
“There’s a lot of returning players, and they were very disappointed last year,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “Northwestern is a great team, but we felt that we didn’t do what we were capable of. We had the potential to go all the way.”
The team’s first game, against Michigan on Sept. 1, should be played in the brand new Alumni Stadium, which Clark had the opportunity to tour last week.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It looks like a castle. Hopefully it becomes a fortress for Notre Dame soccer.”
Clark said he is looking for the Irish to make it further into the NCAA tournament this season, though another Big East title is also a big goal.
“I think the league is the true measure of success, but in fairness the way we are going to be judged, and the way we really want to judge ourselves is if we can win the championship,” he said.
However, even qualifying for the NCAA tournament is a tough task.
“Making the tournament makes it a successful season,” Clark said. “But to make it a great season, I’d say the final four is what the target is.”
The Irish will have to prove themselves right away, as their first games come at home against No. 22 Michigan and then at the Adidias/IU Credit Union Classic against No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 5 St. John’s, both of which made the Final Four in 2008. Overall, the schedule contains eight teams ranked in the pre-season Top 25 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Irish are ranked No. 12.
“We play a difficult schedule,” Clark said. “We’ll find out pretty early if we’ve got what it takes.”
The schedule may be even harder to navigate after the loss of nine seniors from the 2008 squad including first-team All-American central defender Matt Besler, who was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Wizards, and all-Big East left back Jack Traynor. Both men started every game for the Irish in 2008.
But Clark said he is confident that the team will overcome the losses and is still well-stocked with upperclassmen, including nine returning starters.
“There’s no question that we’ll miss all the seniors,” he said. “I think every year you have a good team, you’re going to graduate very good players. The secret is to replace them. It’s an opportunity for the lads who have been waiting in the wings.”
One key replacement comes in the form of incoming freshman midfielder Dillon Powers. Powers was named the 2008-09 Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year for his senior year at Plano Senior High School in Plano, Texas. Clark said he does not yet know how soon Powers will play.
“That will be up to Dillon,” Clark said. “He’s going to challenge when he comes in, and he’ll certainly add depth.”
Powers and sophomore defender Aaron Maund may miss up to six games if chosen to play for the United States at the 2009 U20 World Cup. Both have been named to a 30-player list, of which 21 will be selected.
“It’s great news if they make the squad,” Clark said. “But the bad news is we might have to do without them. But we’re very happy for them. We’ll be good still.”