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Men’s Soccer: Irish need ‘on-pitch’ leaders

Chris Allen | Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When Notre Dame senior forward and Lowe’s Senior Class Award nominee Jeb Brovsky went down with an ankle sprain early in Sunday’s scoreless draw against California, the sight was all too familiar for Irish coach Bobby Clark.

With senior goalkeeper and team captain Phil Tuttle already sidelined with an injury, Brovsky’s ankle sprain left the Irish (0-1-1) to fight without its two leaders as Brovsky watched the remainder of the match on crutches. The two seniors’ injuries also leave leadership gaps on the field, which Clark said the team will need while the two seniors recover.

“We’ve got on-pitch leaders now, and you need that,” Clark said. “Jeb and Phil can provide that off-the-field guidance, but during the game we’ll look to [forward] Steven Perry, [defender] Greg Klazura and [midfielder] Andrew Luttrell, who are all seniors.”

Beyond his trio of healthy seniors, Clark stressed that the younger players on his squad will be counted on to step up as the season progresses.

“You don’t need to be a senior to lead and set an example,” Clark said. “When I was a young lad coming up with Aberdeen FC in the Scottish Premier League, one of our best captains was 21 years old when he led us to the Scottish Cup title. You don’t need an armband to be a leader. Players like [junior defender] Aaron Maund and [junior midfielder] Chris Sutton can take on that responsibility.”

The Irish attack, led by Brovsky, scored eight goals in the team’s three preseason scrimmages but failed to find the back of the net over the weekend against UCLA and Cal. Against Cal, the Irish created 28 shot opportunities to the Golden Bears’ 16, but despite the advantage, were unable to grab a victory. With or without Brovsky, one of the team’s top goal-scoring threats, Clark is looking for a team-wide scoring approach to lessen the load on his strikers.

“These [scoring] droughts happen sometimes in soccer. This weekend our opponents’ [scoring] was very good,” Clark said. “Goalkeepers and strikers are always on edge, because if you make a mistake or fail to produce you are blamed. But all 10 outfield players can score. We don’t want to be too reckless, but we look for anyone to score. Our center backs are often coming forward. We want to share that responsibility.”

As the team prepares to host the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament this weekend, Brovsky is steadily rehabbing his injury and the team is optimistic that they will have his leadership and scoring ability back in the lineup soon.

“He turned his ankle, and the therapists have been doing three rehab sessions a day with him,” Clark said. “The trainers feel like Jeb’s getting there, but we won’t evaluate him until Thursday. Hopefully he can be in the lineup on Friday, but we just don’t know.”

With or without Brovsky, the Irish will look to record their first win of the season Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Drake at Alumni Stadium.