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Irish take down Mexican team

Ken Fowler | Monday, April 25, 2005

Hostile environments aren’t usually so close to home.Playing in front of a heavily partisan crowd of 3,025 rooting for Mexico on a cold and wet Friday night at Alumni Field, the Irish beat the Under-17 Mexican National Team 1-0 in a nail biter.After taking a 1-0 lead early in the second half, Notre Dame struggled the rest of the way, allowing the Mexicans to dominate possession.”We’ve got to hold the ball better,” coach Bobby Clark said. “We owned the ball over the first 25 minutes of the second half, [but] then we lost it.”And when you turn the ball over to the Mexicans, you don’t see it again for 20 minutes.”Mexico tried to take advantage of that ball control late, drawing fouls and three free kicks in the final 10 minutes.At 83:32, Mexico’s Edgar Andrade shot the first of the three, sailing the ball just over the top of the net.With under three minutes remaining, Carlos Vela took the next, but Irish goalkeeper Chris Cahill made the save. And Cahill was not done for the night.Cahill made one more save, just 18 seconds before the final horn, rejecting Manuel Biniegra’s shot.Splitting time at goal with Justin Michaud, Cahill finished the night with four saves. Michaud played the first 45 minutes and also stopped four shots on target.In contrast, the Notre Dame offense only managed four shots on goal.The first came 10 minutes into the first half when forward Justin McGeeney took a shot from the left wing that was saved by Mexican goalkeeper Jesus Gallardo.The next time the Irish would see a truly clean opportunity came early in the second half.Coming off the bench, freshman forward Joe Lapira made his presence felt just 14 minutes into the second half with a lengthy shot that took Gallardo by surprise.Lapira gave the Irish the only goal they would need, a 25-yard shot from the far left wing into the top right corner.Gallardo made a late break on the ball and could not deflect it away, and Notre Dame had a one-goal advantage.From there, the defense had to step up because the offense could not maintain possession. The defense was successful, as Ryan Miller, Justin Mousinho, Ben Crouse and Dale Rellas forced Mexico out of the box and into the corners.”The back four did exceptionally well,” Clark said.They were not without help, however, as the Irish midfield quickly got back on defense throughout the entire second half.Clark sad the midfield “had [quite] a task” but met the challenge with full effort.The pressure Mexico put on Notre Dame forced some physical play, as evidenced by a total of 25 fouls (13 in the second half) and two yellow cards – on Notre Dame’s Rellas and Miller. “Truthfully, I’m happy,” Clark said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to be ready for next season, but by and large, I’m pretty happy.”