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Men’s Soccer: Zuba: Irish defense continues to dominate (Oct. 3)

Samantha Zuba | Thursday, October 3, 2013

It’s all about the defense for the No. 2 Irish.
Notre Dame (4-0-3, 2-0-2 ACC) struggled to score goals early in the season but climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings anyway. How? Defense.
The Irish scored only 10 goals in their first six games before they added three last Friday against Duke. Ten goals might not seem so bad if Notre Dame hadn’t taken 112 shots to earn them.
The Irish were creating chances but not scoring goals, and while the offense searched for consistency, the defense kept Notre Dame competitive in games and high in the standings.
The Irish have allowed just four goals this season. That’s four goals in seven games, several of which were against formidable ranked teams including UCLA and then-No. 1 North Carolina. Notre Dame has played a tough schedule, but it has yet to lose a game because it has kept talented opponents from scoring – or even trying to score. Opponents have attempted 66 shots this season, less than half of the total 146 shots for the Irish.
Shutting down talented teams requires discipline on defense, and that focus has come through experience and good communication for Notre Dame.
Junior defender Max Lachowecki, senior defender Grant Van De Casteele and senior defender Andrew O’Malley give the Irish an upperclassmen edge on defense. Lachowecki and Van De Casteele have started every game and played all 780 minutes for Notre Dame this season. O’Malley has also started every game and played 735 minutes, and senior defender Luke Mishu has turned in significant time on defense in six games.
An established defensive core means the Irish know how to communicate, which is key against the sharp, quick offenses that their opponents field. When snap decisions need to be made, Notre Dame has proven it can make them and keep opponents away from the net.
Of course, if opponents happen to make it to the box, senior goalkeeper Patrick Wall is there to stop them. Wall has allowed just four goals in 780 minutes, which works out to 0.50 goals per game. Wall has 27 saves on the season and a .871 save percentage.
Wall is even better this season than he was as a junior in 2012. Wall started 10 matches in his first season as a starter and allowed 0.98 goals per game with a .762 save percentage. Wall notched 32 saves last year and is on pace to surpass that mark.
But Wall and the Irish defenders aren’t the only ones getting in on the defensive action.
Notre Dame has dominated time of possession in most of its games, so both the offense and defense have played defensive roles and kept the ball away from opponents. As soon as the shots start finding the net, the Irish will become even more formidable.
Notre Dame has showcased its scoring abilities recently. The Irish scored three goals each against Syracuse, Michigan and Duke. All three of the goals against the Blue Devils came in the second period and doubled Notre Dame’s scoring total in second periods this season. The arrow is pointing up for an Irish offense that is starting to score more often and late in games. The offense should keep creating chances, and the defense isn’t going anywhere, so Notre Dame has a chance to dominate games.
The field seems to be opening up for the Irish, and they will be more dangerous than ever now that a potent offense is catching up to a solid defense.
Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.