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Men’s Soccer: All knotted up

Molly Sammon | Thursday, October 6, 2011

A steal from Irish senior defender Michael Knapp in the final seconds looked like it was the winning play the Irish needed in double-overtime until his shot on goal was deflected by a Northwestern defender, leading to a 1-1 tie Wednesday.

“I thought we played well in both overtimes, and I thought we looked like the team that was most likely to win the game,” Clark said. “They gave us all we could handle for the game tonight. It wasn’t one of our better games.”

The No. 11 Irish (5-2-4) are 1-2-3 in this season’s six overtime contests. The Irish are well seasoned in overtime play, as six of their 13 games have lasted more than the regulation 90 minutes.

“We have had a lot of overtime games,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I don’t know what the reason is, but it would be nice if we could get to bed a little earlier. At least we didn’t lose tonight. That was a positive.”

Notre Dame put a point on the scoreboard first in the 38th minute as junior forward Ryan Finley sent a shot past Northwestern goalkeeper Tyler Miller off an assist from senior midfielder Adam Mena.

“It was a nice pass by Mena to Finley,” Clark said. “Ryan [Finley] sent it away quite calmly. Hopefully that starts him on a run of scoring goals.”

Before the game, Finley and Mena were tied for most goals scored so far this season for the Irish.

After Wednesday’s scoring play, Finley leads Notre Dame with four total, and Mena, the previously established leader of assists with three, tacked on another assist for four on the season.

“Mena has certainly been involved. He’s doing very well, actually,” Clark said. “He’s looking dangerous, the nice thing is that he’s not just scoring goals, but he’s actually making goals too.”

In the first half, the Wildcats offensively outplayed Notre Dame. The Irish were outshot 6-2 with no corner kicks to Northwestern’s two. However unmatched the teams were on getting the ball toward the net, the Irish raked in the only one that mattered and went into the half with a 1-0 advantage.

With just 12 minutes left in regulation, Wildcats senior forward Oliver Kupe sent the tying point past Notre Dame’s senior goalkeeper, Will Walsh. Walsh played the entire 120 minutes for the Irish and had two saves.

Clark noticed increased offensive determination from the Wildcats leading up to Northwestern’s equalizing goal.

“There was a period in the second half where they were fighting to get their goal back where they obviously applied a lot of pressure,” Clark said. “After they got the goal back, we took over the game again. It would have been nice if we had gotten our second goal before they tied it up, but it wasn’t to be.”

Aside from their second half burst of offensive power, Northwestern’s unconventional style of play was another challenge for the Irish.

“They set out playing a 4-1-4-1 formation,” Clark said. “They had a sweeper in the midfield. It made it quite difficult for us. It took a while for us to sort that out, but once we did, more gaps appeared, and we got more chances.”

On the defensive side of the game, Clark credits both defenders, senior Aaron Maund and junior Grant Van De Casteele as crucial for Northwestern’s particular style of play.

“I thought that the defenders handled their aerial game very well,” Clark said. “[Maund] and [Van De Casteele] were superb in that department, just handling every time they played.

The Irish will play No. 1 Connecticut at home Saturday to resume their in-conference play.