Men’s soccer: Aggressive play benefits Irish
Brennan, Kevin | Wednesday, August 24, 2005
What a difference a half makes.
In the opening exhibition game of the year, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team fell behind 1-0 in a first half controlled by visiting New Mexico on Monday. The second half, however, proved to be quite a different story.
The Irish came out of the break much more aggressively and confidently and stole the momentum from the Lobos. Notre Dame tied the score in the 56th minute of play on a goal from junior defender Ryan Miller. The two teams fought to a standstill for the rest of regulation and two overtime periods, and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Coach Bobby Clark was pleased with his team’s play.
“They all played a phenomenal second half,” Clark said. “We looked as well as any team can.”
The Lobos, who entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation, set the pace at the outset and had several early scoring chances. With 19:33 left to play in the first half, New Mexico’s speedy striker Brandon Moss got behind the Irish defense and fired a shot from the top of the box. Chris Cahill, the 6-foot-6 junior who started in goal for the Irish, needed all of his length as he dove and knocked down the ball for the save.
Fifteen minutes later, the Lobos finally capitalized on an opportunity. Matt Wootton sent a laser shot past Cahill to put New Mexico in front 1-0.
“It was a hell of a goal that was hit,” Clark said. “So I don’t think we can blame [Cahill]. It was a crack of a shot.”
Cahill and the Irish defense held New Mexico at bay for the rest of the half. A markedly different Irish team then took control.
“We came out much different in the second half,” Miller said. “We really took it to them and played with more confidence.”
In the 12th minute of the second, Miller headed in a terrific pass from midfielder Nate Norman to even the game at one goal apiece. Miller gave Norman most of the credit for the score.
“Nate just put a great ball in and all I really had to do was put a head on it,” Miller said.
After the play, Cahill was replaced in goal by senior keeper Justin Michaud. The Irish continued to press the Lobos through the rest of regulation but could not muster another goal.
Notre Dame received a large boost from the play of freshman Jack Traynor. Clark inserted the defender into the lineup in the second half, and he performed like a veteran.
“He was superb,” Clark said. “He looked like he’d been playing there forever. I was very, very impressed with Jack.”
The entire Irish defense turned in a strong performance. After losing last season’s standout defenders Jack Stewart and Kevin Goldthwaite to the MLS draft, the team is faced with the problem of replacing two of the nation’s top players. Miller, senior tri-captain Dale Rellas and Traynor all did a solid job of limiting the New Mexico attack.
The Irish are also forced to replace last year’s first team All-American goalkeeper Chris Sawyer. Clark has not yet decided who will be the starter in goal, but Cahill and Michaud each played well in the season debut. Both keepers recorded three saves, with Cahill allowing the one goal.
Notre Dame did suffer one setback early in the game. Twenty- five minutes in, junior tri-captain Greg Dalby went down with an injury and did not return. The midfielder’s status is yet to be determined.
Notre Dame’s next match comes Sunday, with the Irish traveling to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.