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Men’s Soccer Commentary: ND’s road to Cup is familiar

Chris Allen | Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evidently, baseball bats aren’t the only high-quality product to come out of Louisville. The Louisville men’s soccer team is pretty good too, a fact the Irish and head coach Bobby Clark know all too well.

Notre Dame has lost twice to the top-ranked Cardinals on the season, falling 2-0 on the road in Louisville in October, and dropping a heartbreaking 1-0 decision in the Big East semifinals in New Jersey Friday.

After Friday’s loss, Clark expressed his hope that the Irish might get another shot against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. He may get his wish.

The Irish were seeded No. 9 overall by the NCAA Selection Committee on the same side of the bracket as No. 1 overall Louisville. For Notre Dame, this means the road to the College Cup runs through their old Kentucky foes.

Several things bode well for Clark’s squad with their seeding and their draw. They will be playing familiar foes nearly all the way through. In their opening game, the Irish will play the winner of a Wednesday night tilt between Dartmouth and Monmouth. Clark should have no trouble game planning for a Dartmouth squad that he knows well, as he coached at the school from 1985 to 1993 and led the Big Green to the NCAA quarterfinals twice. Clark’s oldest son Tommy also graduated from and played soccer for the Ivy League school. Waiting for the Irish in the next round, if top seeds hold, would be UCLA, who handed the Irish a 1-0 defeat in Notre Dame’s season opener. The next logical opponent would be Louisville, provided the Cardinals are able to knock off lower seeds in their first two games. On the whole, it’s clear that there is no lack of familiarity for the Irish on their side of the bracket.

While the results against the Bruins and Cardinals haven’t been positive, this is a different Irish team than the one that took the field in the early stages of the season. Senior forward Steven Perry and junior midfielder Brendan King have been sensational in the second half of the season, with Perry seemingly scoring in every match. Notre Dame has been scoring goals against better defenses than the ones they struggled to score against early in the season. If there is one trend that the team can ride through the postseason, it is the fact that their main striker — Perry — is scoring goals.

Soccer coaches have a lot to smile about when that happens.

The teams who win championships are not always the best overall teams, but the teams that are playing the best going into the postseason. Clark’s squad is playing well at the right time, and if fate smiles on them, they will get the chance to take on the team that has tormented them throughout the regular season and beat them when it really counts.

Isn’t that really all they can ask for?

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu