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ND Men’s Soccer: Trading Places

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, September 6, 2011

After being recognized as the ACC Player of the Year with Duke last season, junior forward Ryan Finley managed to find his niche at Notre Dame, both on the field and off.

Finley scored 17 goals for the Blue Devils last year and added three assists to account for 20 of Duke’s 34 goals. He also led Division I with .94 goals per game and ranked second in the nation in points per game. No. 24 Duke went 10-6-4 before being bounced from the second round of the NCAA tournament by South Carolina. After last season, Finley was drawn to Notre Dame (1-1-1) for a number of reasons.

“I kind of wanted to go to another place where soccer, as well as academics, were the best in the country so obviously Notre Dame has both of those things,” Finley said. “I also knew [junior midfielder] Dillon Powers and [senior midfielder] Brendan King from the U.S. National Team so I obviously talked to them about how they liked it. When I came to visit, [Irish] coach Clark, I was really just blown away by him … and by the coaching staff as a whole. Those things all together really made it an easy decision.”

When Finley expressed interest in Notre Dame, Clark seized the opportunity to land the talented transfer. Beyond his skill on the field, Finley possessed all the other qualities Clark looks for in his players.

“We felt he was a good fit,” Clark said. “He was strong academically, he was coming from a school very similar to Notre Dame and he had excellent statistics on the soccer field. So these were all very positive.”

When Clark found out Finley had roomed with King during a stint with the U-17 U.S. National Team, and later with Powers on the U-20 U.S. National Team, he turned to his players for an evaluation of the prospective transfer.

“I asked both of these lads, Brandon and Dillon, if they thought he would be a good teammate, and they both felt he would be an excellent teammate,” Clark said.

For Finley, the transition was seamless. He credits his coaches and teammates with making the process of stepping onto the Irish team so manageable.

“All the guys are great guys to begin with, as well as great soccer players,” he said. “I came in during the summer, which was a huge, huge help to just get acclimated with the campus, and a bunch of the guys were here also, so that obviously helped a lot too.

“The coaching staff has just made me feel really welcome and kind of showed me the ropes here in the first games and throughout preseason. When you are in a new situation, you want to blend in as soon as possible and feel welcome — I think the team really did a great job of that.”

In the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic over the weekend, the forward netted two goals in Notre Dame’s 4-1 win over Dayton (0-3-0) on Friday and added another score in Sunday’s 2-1 (2OT) loss to St. Louis (1-2-0). With his ability surrounded by a skilled Irish squad, there should be plenty more scoring opportunities ahead for Finley.

“With our team and the way everyone keeps the ball and passes the ball, for being a goal scorer, that’s every forward’s dream to have the midfield that we have,” Finley said. “They do all the hard work — I’m just on the end to finish off. Obviously before I even came I was really excited to play with the awesome players we have on the team. I’m just really excited to keep going along and see how far this team can take it.”

But Finley will have to wait until Sunday when the Irish host Bucknell to retake the field with his team. After being issued a red card in last Sunday’s match, Finley will have to sit out Notre Dame’s Friday matchup with Denver.

“I was pretty angry about [the call] because I didn’t really think it deserved a red card,” Finley said. “Watching them score that overtime goal, I think a lot of lessons can be taken from it. I think it can serve as a motivation not only for me, but for the rest of the team.”

The Irish will play Denver at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Alumni Stadium, then matchup against Bucknell on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu