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Men’s Soccer: Blue Devils to visit Irish

Cory Bernard | Friday, August 24, 2012

After concluding exhibition play Monday, the Irish will open the regular season with a home showdown against Duke on Saturday.

Ranked No. 21 in the Soccer America preseason poll, Duke brings a squad sporting just one senior to Alumni Stadium.
However, Irish coach Bobby Clark said the age difference between the two teams likely will not matter too greatly.

“Age does not affect it too much,” he said. “I’m sure [Duke] has a reasonable amount of experience. I don’t think it’s how old you are that counts, it’s how good you are. I don’t put too much thought into age. We’ll see after the game if [inexperience] really affected [Duke] or not.”

Luckily for the Blue Devils, the lone senior on their roster is 2011 All-ACC first team goalkeeper James Belshaw. Clark said his coaches know how talented Belshaw is. But if the Irish execute their game plan, he said they should have no trouble creating scoring opportunities.

“We’ve got pretty good reports about their goalkeeper, he’s got pretty good experience,” Clark said. “I don’t want to focus too much on them. We’ve got to really concentrate on what we do and how we play how. Can we execute our game plan? Can we create chances? I don’t care what goalkeeper it is if we get good chances.”

Regardless of the outcome, Duke will present a significant test to begin the season. Clark said the matchup with Blue Devils mirrors the remaining regular season schedule, and he prefers such a layout.

“If you look at our schedule, we don’t have one easy game,” he said. “With 17 regular season games, I don’t believe in wasting one with what we think would be an easy game. The most important thing [against Duke] is finding out about [us.]”

Captain and senior midfielder Dillon Powers echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying a difficult opening-game opponent will prove beneficial.

“It is a good thing, in that you have to be ready right away,” Powers said. “Also, if you do get a big win to open your season, that can be a great thing.”

Though they may not make an appearance Saturday, a few Irish freshmen will likely end up playing this season, according to Clark. He said he was pleased with what he saw from the freshmen during the preseason.

“It’s always hard for a fall sport, especially when you only get two-and-a-half weeks of a preseason,” Clark said. “It’s hard for freshmen to come in and make an impact. There are always a couple that work their way into the squad. I was very pleased with all six of the freshmen, and I imagine two to three will end up contributing this year.”

Powers is also hoping to see some freshmen on the pitch this season.

“I’m very happy with them, we’re excited to have such a talented class,” he said. “We really try to integrate them as much as possible, and hopeful they can contribute for us.”

Notre Dame kicks off against the Blue Devils on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Stadium.

Contact Cory Bernard at