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ND Soccer: Teams to play against Mexico, Haiti

Andrew Gastelum and Matthew DeFranks | Friday, April 27, 2012

Irish coach Bobby Clark has a very simple recruiting tool hanging in his office – a photograph. What makes the photograph special, though, is who is in the picture.

Featured in the photograph are former Irish players Michael Thomas and Justin Morrow challenging for a header against former Mexico under-20 forward and current Manchester United star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

“Every time a recruit comes in, you just say ‘Do you want to be in that photo?’ He usually doesn’t know Michael Thomas and he usually doesn’t know Justin Morrow but he does know Javier Hernandez,” Clark said.

Clark and the Irish will have another opportunity for a stunning snapshot tonight, when they take on Mexico’s under-20 team at Alumni Stadium.

The scrimmage against Mexico will be the final contest slated in a busy spring season for the Irish that began with a 2-2 draw against Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. Notre Dame has also faced Michigan and Indiana, among others, this spring.

Clark said the Irish have used the spring to try and rebuild their back line, now left empty by departing players Michael Knapp, Aaron Maund and Greg Klazura.

“These are holes we need to fill,” Clark said. “[The Mexico game] will really test us [on defense]. This is a really good testing game to see where we are.”

The under-20 roster will feature five players that were on the World Cup-winning under-17 Mexican national team. Clark said one of the Mexican players, Carlos Guzman, even had to leave the team suddenly because of an injury on his club team, Monarcas Morelia.

This game will mark the seventh time in eight years the Irish will host a Mexican national team. Notre Dame carries a 4-1-1 mark all-time against those teams that includes a 2-1 setback to the under-17 team last year.

“[The United States is] their main opponent. I think the more experience they can get against younger U.S. players, the better,” Clark said. “They enjoy it. They come play us and then go down and play Indiana, which are two really good teams.”

The Irish and the under-20 Mexican national team will kick off tonight at 7 p.m. in Alumni Stadium.

Women’s Soccer vs. Haiti

Before the men’s soccer team takes the field against the U-20 Mexican national team, Irish coach Randy Waldrum will lead the women’s team against the Haitian national team at 4:30 p.m.

Usually the Irish face the Mexican national team each spring, but things quickly changed when the Mexican team qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. Waldrum, however, said he welcomes the change to Notre Dame’s spring slate, especially because of the way it benefits the visiting team.

“I am excited for a couple of reasons,” Waldrum said, “The first thing is with the disaster with the earthquake and all that the county has gone through, it is a great opportunity to get out of the country and tour.”

Haiti is led by former Indiana FC coach Shek Borkowski, who led Indiana FC to Women’s Premier Soccer League titles in 2005 and 2007. Waldrum admitted he didn’t know much about the Haitian team, and said Borkowski has been around Indiana long enough to know how to play the Irish.

“[Haiti] has been training here and typically they don’t have a lot of funding,” Waldrum said. “They have so very little, but bringing them over here was a great idea. And they have been playing together and training, so I expect them to be pretty good.

“They know our team well, with Shek being from the area. And I know close to zero about their players. Everything is just word-of-mouth.”

The Irish lost six seniors from last year’s squad, including three-time All-American forward Melissa Henderson as well as two other captains. And with an outstanding incoming class of freshmen, the Irish are in need of a bona fide leader.

“We are pretty thin this spring, down to 13 players,” Waldrum said. “It has been a good spring getting to know the team, but it is not the team we had in the fall. Some of the players are stepping up to take that leadership position. Although I don’t think anyone really has any international experience, so they are really looking forward to this one.”

The Irish will host the Haitian national team at 4:30 p.m. today at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu and Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu