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Men’s Soccer: Notre Dame better on Sundays

Eric Retter | Monday, September 11, 2006

If only every day was Sunday.

That certainly has to be No. 8 Notre Dame’s mindset right now, after it put together another Sunday victory.

For the third straight weekend, the Irish played out what is becoming a similar pattern – struggling to score on Friday night then exploding for a big afternoon as they rebound on Sunday.

This time, the Irish dominated visiting DePaul, taking the lead in the second minute on a Justin McGeeney goal and never giving the Blue Demons a second to relax. Notre Dame fired 27 shots on goal – compared with four for DePaul – en route to a 3-0 victory.

In their six games this season, the Irish are 3-0-0 in games played on Sunday, including wins over No. 11 Indiana and Creighton, who was No. 8 according to the NSCAA/adidas poll when they played Notre Dame. The Irish are 0-2-1 in games played on Friday night, including Friday night’s 2-0 loss to South Florida.

Even though yesterday’s total was Notre Dame lowest offensive output on a Sunday yet, the Irish are averaging four goals a game on Sundays. Conversely, the Irish are still looking for their first Friday night goal.

After Sunday’s win, head coach Bobby Clark made a suggestion that most people associated with the team would likely go along with gladly.

“We should just play doubleheaders on Sunday,” he said. “We shouldn’t play on Friday.”

Strangely, there hasn’t been too much of a drop from the Irish’s Sunday afternoon play to the way they play Friday nights. In both of its two losses, Notre Dame has had a commanding lead with regard to shots on goal. They outshot USF 17-9 on Friday, and they had a 23-5 shot advantage against UAB two weeks ago, despite the fact that UAB won 1-0. In fact, the only game in which the Irish haven’t had the edge in shots on goal was last Sunday against Indiana, where they were outshot 19-12 by the Hoosiers but won the game 5-4, making it the first time Indiana had ever given up five goals in the history of its program. The main difference for the Irish offense has been that shots only find the back of the net on Sundays.

“We had three good chances in the first ten minutes against South Florida, but we weren’t ready for them,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter whether the chances come in the first minute or the last minute, when the chances come you have to be ready for them.”

Even though the Irish controlled the game Sunday, they still didn’t have a comfortable margin until All-American midfielder Greg Dalby put in a deflected ball midway through the second half to put them up 2-0.

“We kept that game hanging around until about the 68th minute, [even though] we were clearly killing them,” Clark said. “As long as it’s a one goal game, they can still squeeze a goal out of a set piece, like UAB did [two weeks ago].”

Ultimately, Clark realizes that the path Notre Dame takes this season is dependant on only one thing.

“At the end of the game, nobody remembers the statistics, only the score,” he said. “There’s no use in playing well if you don’t score.”

For the Irish, it seems best if people would only remember the Sundays.