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Men’s Soccer: Irish open season, Alumni Stadium against Wolverines

Jared Jedick | Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The No. 10 Irish look to kick off the regular season with a win this evening at newly constructed Alumni Stadium against a No. 21 Michigan team that defeated Notre Dame 3-1 last year.

“There is huge excitement to be playing in the new stadium,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “It must be one of the finest college venues in the country.”

The new $5.7 million stadium was the generous gift of the alumni and in particular of former Irish soccer players Tom Crotty and Rob Snyder.

“We would really like to thank the former players for coming back and doing this for us,” Clark said.

Taking the pitch opposite the Irish is No. 21 Michigan, who were able to best the Irish last year by scoring three goals, a rarity in that season.

“They were able to put three on us, which you did not see much last year,” Clark said. “I do not want to say we are out for revenge this year, but we will definitely take them seriously.”

The main issue for the Irish will be containing the Wolverines’ potent attack. Michigan brings back five starters and 17 letter-winners from last season’s squad, representing a team that knows how to score.

“Michigan is a good team with some very good players,” Clark said. “They are a good attacking team that gets players forward.”

Clark believes Notre Dame has an answer for the Wolverines attack as long as they stay within their game and play balanced soccer.

“I believe a team always needs to take what the other team is giving them, and then use whatever is appropriate,” Clark said. “We are a well-rounded team. We have good speed, good technical ability, and a good idea of how to play together.”

This game also marks a good opportunity to get early points in the season, and perhaps knock a chip off of the Big Ten, one of the top soccer conferences in the country.

“The Big Ten is a great conference, but you would always like to see more teams from your own conference in the postseason,” Clark said. “This is a good opportunity to get some early points, both for us and for the Big East.”

The Irish are glad to finally be out of preseason play and actually play some games that really count. The Irish swept the preseason, beating Northern Illinois twice and shutting out Northwestern 1-0 in their last game at old Alumni Field.

“We are all looking forward to the Wolverines,” Clark said. “Scrimmages are great, but there is no substitute for real action.”

Now that the players have gotten into the rhythm of studying and playing, Clark believes the team is ready to step out on the pitch and make a statement.

“We are ready to start the season,” Clark said. “We like this group and they have worked extremely hard all offseason. I am optimistic about what we can do this season.”

Clark said he believes the team is well-served by facing the best teams in the country every year, and playing a strong Michigan team right off the bat is a good way to test the waters immediately.

“This is a great opportunity to get off to a good start this season,” Clark said. “This first game can set the tempo.”

This Irish team has a chance to rebound from its early postseason exit last year and have a very strong showing this season.

“We have a good group. We have a very focused group. They are ready,” Clark said.

The Irish will have a chance to prove they are ready at 7 this evening in Alumni Stadium.