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Men’s Soccer: Irish shut down UCLA, edge Mustangs

By Samantha Zuba | Monday, September 2, 2013

The No. 7 Irish endured hot, humid conditions Friday night to force a 0-0 draw against No.  9 UCLA, and then bounced back Sunday to record a 2-1 over SMU at the adidas/ IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind.

Irish coach Bobby Clark said the warm weather during Friday’s matchup tested Notre Dame’s  endurance.

“It was a very warm night,” Clark said. “It was 93 degrees when we started the game and very humid. Our fitness was very good, and they played very well and kept their energy, so I give credit to them.”

The Irish (1-0-1) and Bruins (1-0-1) remained scoreless after regulation and two overtimes.

Senior defenders Andrew O’Malley and Grant Van De Casteele prevented Bruins scoring opportunities, as UCLA managed only nine shots, compared to Notre Dame’s 18. Senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall contributed five saves to the Irish defensive effort.

“Our defense was very solid,” Clark said. “I think our goalkeeper was excellent – Pat was very calm and collected. O’Malley and Van De Casteele have a very good understanding. They never gave away any scoring opportunities. All of the seniors have a lot of experience and looked very solid.”

Despite five shots on goal, however, the Irish offense failed to score against the Bruins.

“Maybe it was just a little bit of excitement,” Clark said of the offense’s struggles. “Maybe we were trying a little too hard. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in soccer. Somehow it didn’t fall. That’s the way some games go.”

Sophomore midfielder Patrick Hodan led the Irish with two shots on goal. Junior forward Vince Cicciarelli also came close in the 84th minute, but his kick bounced off the post.

“These are some very creative players,” Clark said of the Irish. “They are free to create a lot of opportunities. Cicciarelli is very dangerous. We played well in everything except scoring goals. We had a few chances, but we didn’t convert.”

Clark said he wasn’t too worried about Notre Dame’s lack of scoring.

“I think the most important thing is that we created chances,” Clark said. “If we hadn’t created chances, I would have been more concerned.”

The Irish converted two chances against SMU (0-2-0) on Sunday, as senior forward Leon Brown scored both goals.

The first came early in the first half when Brown received a pass from senior forward Alex Priede, took three dribbles from midfield and shot. 

“Those were two excellent goals from Leon,” Clark said. “The first, he picked up the ball and shot from about 25 yards.  His striker partner, Priede, fed him the ball. The goalkeeper was diving, and it was a really good kick in the low corner of the goal.”

Hodan set up Brown’s second goal with a low cross into the box in the 20th minute. Brown converted the pass into an eight-yard shot that gave Notre Dame a 2-0 lead over the Mustangs (0-2-0). 

“Hodan picked up the ball in the right flank,” Clark said. “He beat and weaved past the defense and cut the ball back to Leon, who just hammered it in.”

SMU threatened the Irish lead in the 70th minute when sophomore forward Will Smith fed a pass to sophomore midfielder Brenden Lee, who shot from the left corner of the box for the Mustangs’ only goal. 

Notre Dame and UCLA finished the tournament with the same record of 1-0-1, but the Irish took the title by winning the goals scored tiebreaker.

“It’s nice to win a tournament,” Clark said. “We should’ve beaten UCLA. No question, we were the more dominant team. There were a lot of positives. The team played well, but there are things to improve like finishing and playing under pressure. Overall, it was a solid weekend.”

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu