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Men’s Soccer: Irish hope to recover at home

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

After failing to extend a four-game winning streak in their last outing, the Irish take the field tonight looking to avoid what would be their first back-to-back losses this season.

With Northwestern (4-4-2, 0-0-1 Big Ten) coming to town, No. 10 Notre Dame (5-2-2, 1-1-0 Big East) will try to bounce back from Saturday’s devastating, double-overtime 2-1 loss to No. 15 St. John’s (7-2-1, 1-1-0 Big East).

“The loss to St. John’s was pretty heartbreaking,” senior defender Michael Knapp said. “It’s kind of important to get back [on track]. We were on a little undefeated streak before that ⎯ we had five games in a row. Now it’s hard to try and bounce back and try to somehow figure out what exactly our mistakes were in the last game.”

After turning in what Irish coach Bobby Clark said was arguably its best performance of the season against the Red Storm, Notre Dame’s ability to remain confident and focused will play an important role in its matchup against Northwestern.

“I thought we played very well [against St. John’s],” Clark said. “I think the big thing is, the [players have] held their belief in themselves. I said to them yesterday, ‘One of the easiest things in soccer is to win when you are good. The second easiest thing is to lose when you are bad. The hardest thing for a team to handle is to lose when you are good.'”

That takes a lot of character, but I think we’ve got good character and good belief in ourselves, and that’s always a good test for a team.”

The Irish will be tested against the Wildcats, a team that has already posted five shutouts this season. 

“As long as we get on the board and score one more than them, that’s always the most important thing,” Clark said. “They’re a good, strong defensive team at times, but we should find out what DePaul did to them. DePaul, I saw, was one of the few teams that scored a lot of goals against them.”

The Wildcats surrendered four goals in their loss to DePaul on Sept. 28, but have only surrendered six goals total in their other nine games. Knapp said increased pressure on the Wildcats will be a key determinant of Notre Dame’s success.

“Our team really focuses on pressuring the ball and working hard for each other, and that is something we felt we didn’t do as well as we should have against St. John’s,” Knapp said. “So we believe that a key to our victory tomorrow would be to pressure really high up the field and just work hard for each other off the ball.”

The trip to South Bend represents Northwestern’s first game outside of the state of Illinois this season, but the Irish don’t expect the game’s site to be an overriding factor in the outcome of the contest.

“The field will be roughly the same size as all the other fields [Northwestern has] played on,” Clark said. “I think the advantage will be in the way we play. I think we have not got to look for any advantages whether it’s a home game or an away game.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu