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Lorton: Men’s Soccer defense drives success so far this season (Sept. 30)

Isaac Lorton | Monday, September 30, 2013

Notre Dame looks to be a serious contender.

Currently sitting at No. 4 in the country, the Irish (4-0-3, 2-0-2 ACC) remain unbeaten, for one big reason: the Irish defense is dominant.

It has allowed just four goals on the season in seven games for a goals-against average of .57, one of the lowest in the country and in the ACC. Irish coach Bobby Clark often points out that team defense starts with the forwards and midfielders, but even if the an opponent gets through the first two lines, it meets a back line consisting of a core group of returning veterans, who make up arguably the best back four in the country.  

Seniors and captains Grant Van De Casteele and Andrew O’Malley hold down the middle, while senior Luke Mishu and junior Max Lachowecki man the flanks. When this group of four starts, the Irish are 17-1-3 and are holding teams to 4.14 shots on goal per game, which gives senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall an easier job.

But even if an opponent makes it through the first two lines and then make it through the fantastic four, they meet a Wall (fitting, right?). He has a .875 save percentage, which is top 15 in the country and best in the ACC.  Behind Wall, the Irish have three shutouts on the year.

And just as everyone defends, so too does everyone attack.

Lachowecki and Mishu often push forward on the flanks to create offensive opportunities. In the match against Duke on Friday, the pair of outside defenders got the scoring underway for the Irish. Mishu drove the ball down the sideline and crossed the ball to Lachowecki who headed it home. Mishu has two assists on the year both coming off of crosses and Lachowecki has one goal. Even O’Malley, a center back, has a goal on the season.

Moving forward into one of the toughest stretches off the year, it is not the defense Notre Dame must worry about. It is not even creating opportunities. The Irish have outshot their opponents 129-58 – more than 10 shots a game greater. Rather, it is about capitalizing on those opportunities. The Irish have netted only 13 of those 129 shots. Against Duke, the Irish led the shots category 17-6 overall, 7-0 in the first half, yet no goals came in the first half, and the score was still tied with three minutes left. The Irish need to come out with a win against teams they should beat. Luckily against the Blue Devils, Notre Dame pulled it out the end, but it was too close for comfort. Closer than it should have been.

And one might say that one in 10 is not bad, but in order to edge out upcoming opponents (who are better than Duke), the Irish will need to do more than rely on a great defense. They must take advantage of every chance they get.

We will see what Notre Dame does against Indiana on Wednesday. Hopefully, it is not a repeat of last years meeting with the Hoosiers, who ended Notre Dame’s season with an overtime victory in the NCAA tournament.

Contact Isaac Lorton at ilorton@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.