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Men’s Soccer: Irish to host memorial tourney

By Sam Gans | Friday, September 9, 2011

Coming off a split in a pair of games at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind., the No. 14 Irish will look to better their performance in two home games this weekend.

Notre Dame (1-1-1) hosts the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament this weekend, with games against No. 20 Denver on Friday and Bucknell on Sunday.

The Irish got off to a strong start last weekend with a 4-1 win over Dayton, but could not continue the momentum, dropping their next game 2-1 to Saint Louis in double overtime.

Irish coach Bobby Clark is hoping for more consistency on the defensive end of the field this weekend.

“We’ve got to be much more stingy in the back,” Clark said. “We need to get a little bit better at not giving up goals, because in both games we played very well. But when you’ve dominated two games and you’ve given up three goals, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Improved defense will be especially critical against the Pioneers (0-1-1), who utilize an aggressive offensive attack.

“I know Denver will be well-organized,” Clark said. “They’ll be quite a physical team and they’re fairly direct. They get the ball forward; they get the ball into your box. And that’s something that we’ll obviously have to take care of.”

Though the defense did not play up to Clark’s liking, the Irish offense had an impressive weekend — headlined by the four-goal outburst against the Flyers — something he hopes will continue in the next two contests.

“I was obviously pleased with the goal surge against Dayton,” Clark said. “And even in the game against Saint Louis, we played a man short for most of the second half when [junior forward] Ryan Finley was given a red card, but we still generated 22 shots. So from that perspective, it was positive.”

Bucknell (2-1) also poses a potent threat to the Irish, coming into the weekend on a two-game winning streak. Clark, however, is not directly concerned with the Bison at the moment.

“We’ll have a look at Bucknell on Friday night when they play Indiana, so we’ll have a better idea on Saturday on them,” Clark said. “But we’re pretty much focused on the Denver game right now, because that’s the game that comes first.”

One advantage the Irish hope to carry into this weekend and the rest of the season is their developed team chemistry, formed largely during summer workouts.

“There was about half the team here taking summer school classes and also playing together, so I think that’s really kept a little continuity to it,” junior midfielder Dillon Powers said. “And I think like we feel we’re further along in our ability to play on the field than we have been at this stage in the past few years, so that’s a good sign.”

That chemistry, along with strong overall play, has been on display so far this year. Clark hopes it’s able to translate into more victories.

“We’re looking for a good all-around performance,” Clark said. “I thought we got that last weekend, we just didn’t get the two results. We got one result, but we didn’t get the other. I think if we can do the same as we did last week, but actually defend a little bit better as a group, and [make] some of our shots on the goal, we can go home pretty happy.”

The Irish square off against Denver at 7:30 p.m. Friday and face Bucknell at 2 p.m. Sunday, with both games taking place in Alumni Stadium.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu