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Men’s Soccer: Irish win in tense shootout

Jared Jedick | Monday, November 9, 2009

Notre Dame’s Big East quarterfinal match-up with No. 13 South Florida went down to the wire once again, as the game reached the end of overtime tied 2-2, and the Irish advanced on penalty kicks (5-4) into the semifinals.

“This team comes to attack,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “We outshoot and we out-corner every team.”

The game only counted as a tie for the official NCAA records, but hopefully that will be enough to catapult the Irish in the NCAA tournament.

“We’ll still hopefully get another couple of games in the Big East,” Clark said. “We’ll get Louisville now, and hopefully the winner of St. John’s and Providence, so hopefully we’ll get two more games before they make that decision.”

The Irish forced overtime by overcoming a two-goal deficit. Notre Dame finally tied the game with seven minutes left when a corner off the boot of freshman midfielder Dillon Powers found the head of sophomore defenseman Aaron Maund, who put it off the left post and into the back of the net, tying the game 2-2.

After a scoreless overtime period, the Irish were finally able to earn the win on penalty kicks, as all five of their shooters were able to convert. The game came down to a final shot from South Florida’s Sebastian Thuriere, but he hit the top crossbar of the net and the Irish were able to advance.

The game started off disastrously for the Irish, as the rust of a week-long layoff showed when the Irish found themselves in a hole early.

South Florida’s first goal came after only 2:34 had elapsed from the kickoff. A Bulls run had been stopped by the Irish central defense, but the ball was cleared weakly and South Florida senior midfielder Jorge Mora collected the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and blew a shot past senior goalkeeper Philip Tuttle to put the Bulls up 1-0.

“We started so slowly, I don’t know what was wrong,” Clark said. “Sometimes I think that is one of the hard things, after you have not played for a week and it’s a long football weekend. I think the guys were a little slow starting.”

Clark said the first goal was a wakeup call for his team, but things had to get worse before they could get better for the Irish, as a South Florida cross from freshman forward Hasani Sinclair found Thuriere’s head right in front of the goal to give the Bulls a 2-0 advantage. The advantage seemed to be a significant one for South Florida, as the Bulls have only given up 13 goals on the year.

“After the first goal we got some life, and after the second goal there was no question we were really into the game,” Clark said.

Despite the early deficit, the Irish then took over the game, starting with a goal of their own with the half nearing a close. Senior midfielder Michael Thomas got a cross into the box to Bright Dike. Dike was able to corral the ball and get a shot off into the back of the net for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

“It was really important that we got one goal back before halftime and put some pressure on them,” Clark said.

After that goal, the pressure seemed to really get to South Florida, as one of their senior leaders, midfielder Francisco Aristeguieta, made a costly mistake as he earned his second booking with only two minutes left in the first half and got ejected from the game, forcing the Bulls to play the second half a man down. After that booking the Bulls really tried to crowd their defensive third and keep the Irish from getting good scoring chances.

“Good marks to [South Florida],” Clark said. “They got a man sent off, they sucked up a lot of pressure and they defended very well. They have a lot of good players.”

Once they had the man advantage, the Irish used the opportunity to push their midfield and defense forward, putting the pressure on the South Florida defense. The second-half flurry saw the Irish gain a 21-9 advantage in shots and a 10-3 advantage in corner kicks.

“For all our huffing and puffing, and 21 shots, their goalie only had to make two saves,” Clark said. “We need to make our shots count. We got shots, but maybe we need to get more quality shots.”

Notre Dame’s shots counted enough, as Maund’s goal tied the game, and the teams went to an extra period.

Overtime saw the Irish again dominate possession and the scoring chances, but they were not able to make a breakthrough and get the win before penalty kicks. Dike was controversially taken down in the box in the first overtime, but no call was forthcoming.

“Dike had a couple of shots at penalty kicks,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter what I think anyway, it is what the referee thinks. If you asked someone in a Notre Dame uniform on they would have seen it as a penalty kick. If you asked South Florida they probably would have seen it differently.”

Notre Dame will next play this Friday in the Big East semifinals against Louisville in West Virginia