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Men’s Soccer: Top notch teams clash

Isaac Lorton | Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two early-season powerhouses will descend upon Alumni Stadium on Sunday, as the No. 4 Irish host No. 1 North Carolina. 

The matchup against the Tar Heels (2-0-0) will mark the first conference game for Notre Dame (1-0-1) in the ACC, and both teams are taking similar approaches to an unfamiliar conference opponent. 

Tar Heels coach Carlos Somoano said his team will not prepare for Notre Dame in any specific way since it’s so early in the season.

“We have never played Notre Dame,” Somoano said. “[Notre Dame] has been a great soccer program for years and it will just be another challenge that we face every day. It will be like playing any other competitive team. Early in the season, most teams are probably focusing on themselves. We have some video of [Notre Dame] and [Notre Dame] of us, so we will take a look at that. But right now, we have to define ourselves.” 

In a similar manner, Irish coach Bobby Clark said the Irish already have too much on their minds.

“We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the opposition,” Clark said. “We look at ourselves, what we did in our last games and what we will do. We sort ourselves out and get ourselves in the right state of mind. We don’t have to worry about them.” 

Although it was an exhibition game, the Tar Heels earned a 1-0 win over defending champion Indiana on Aug. 24. Somoano said North Carolina will not allow the early hype to get in the way of its play.

“No, we don’t feel anything about the rankings,” he said. “It’s one week into the season. We won’t know if we are No. 1 until later. It can only be proven over time.”

Even though it is early in the season, Clark said every game against a No.1 opponent adds something for the players. 

“Early season rankings don’t mean too much, but you don’t get to No. 1 without convincing people,” Clark said. “The players will look forward to it, it adds a little spice. In the overall big picture, I don’t think it means much, but to start in the ACC this way, it adds a little spice.” 

The Tar Heels will need to be in the right mindset on the road in order to come away from Notre Dame with a victory, Somoano said.   

“We don’t approach anything differently when we are away,” Somoano said. “There are no psychological adjustments or change in game plan. When traveling, you just have to take those parts into consideration. Traveling isn’t easy, but we just have to get our guys comfortable with it.

“Winning on the road is about adaptability and perception. If you go in thinking you are at a disadvantage, you will be.” 

Both with dominating defenses, the Irish and North Carolina will look to capitalize.

“Soccer is a funny game in general,” Somoano said. “Taking advantage of our opportunities and that first goal is critical. If [we] get an opportunity, [we] take advantage of it and go up 1-0. But what will help us win the game is the preparation.”

Clark said the Irish hope to play their game. 

“[The Tar Heels] are a good team,” Clark said. “Their players are well coached. They play like ourselves. We are not going to shock them. It will be a tough match. We are very well aware of what we need to do.”

The Irish look to topple top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday at noon at Alumni Stadium. 

Contact Isaac Lorton at [email protected]