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Men’s Soccer: Notre Dame hosts friendly with Mexican Under-20 team

Fran Tolan | Friday, April 25, 2008

Notre Dame versus… Mexico?

That’s right, the Irish will take on the Mexican Under-20 national team today at 7 p.m. at Alumni Field.

This marks the fourth straight year Notre Dame has faced off against a team from across the United States southern border. In 2005 and 2006, the Irish notched wins against the Mexico Under-17 team before defeating the Under-20 squad last year.

Irish coach Bobby Clark said the series with Mexico began after Notre Dame women’s coach Randy Waldrum began setting up games with the Mexico women’s national team.

“Randy Waldrum actually had the connection with their team and we thought this was something the men should do, too,” Clark said. “It’s a big game for us that we actually get them to come play us.”

Clark said he expects the friendly match to fill up the bleachers at Alumni Field. But, believe it or not, that might hurt the Irish more than it helps them.

“It’s always a big crowd. We usually get about 3,000 people in our little stadium,” Clark said. “The trouble is, it’s always mostly a Hispanic crowd. It always feels like we’re playing in Mexico City.”

But the Irish coach said he hopes the crowd is somewhat more evenly distributed this year.

“We’re hoping to get a lot of students in the stands. We’d like to see more of a home-spun crowd to give the United States team – Notre Dame – a chance,” Clark said.

Even though the Irish have played well against the Mexican teams in the past, Clark said the match will be anything but a cakewalk for Notre Dame. Mexico picked up a 2-0 win at Indiana Tuesday in the first game of the team’s two-match tour.

“Not many people go into Bloomington, Indiana, and win like that,” Clark said. “That just shows the enormity of our challenge.”

Clark said Mexico presents a stiffer challenge than most of his team’s regular opponents.

“They are very, very good. Technically, I don’t think we face anyone better than them,” he said. “They take it very seriously because they are professionals trying to stay with the national team.”

But the Irish finished last season as the No. 6 team in the NCAA and look to remain unbeaten against the Mexicans.

“Notre Dame is one of the premier college teams so it should be a great little comparison for us,” Clark said. “… This is the culmination of our spring season. It should be a good measuring stick for us.”