Men’s Soccer: Irish take on rivals Michigan State
Aaron Sant-Miller | Monday, November 4, 2013
After claiming a 3-1 victory over No. 12 Wake Forest on Saturday, the No. 2 Irish now sit tied atop the ACC standings with No. 8 Maryland. Yet, before the final ACC standings can be established, the Irish (9-1-5, 6-1-3 ACC) must kick off the last week of their season in a non-conference game against another top-25 team, No. 22 Michigan State.
“[Michigan State is] a very good team with some very good players,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “I think we really have to focus and work hard on set pieces. Any fouls in [our] half become a set piece. They put them in the box and challenge opponents.”
Accordingly, the Irish will have to defend an athletic Michigan State attack, Clark said, one that plays well in the air and takes advantage of its many offensive sets.
“[The Spartans] have some strong center backs that are very good in the air,” Clark said. “[Michigan State junior forward Adam] Montague, in particular, is strong in the air. You obviously don’t want to give them set pieces, but if you do, you’ve got to defend them. Defending set pieces will be very important [against Michigan State].”
Currently, Montague is second on the Spartans (9-3-3, 2-2-1 BIG 10) with 13 points, despite only playing in 13 games this fall due to injuries.
“Montague has been out injured, their big striker,” Clark said. “If he comes back, he could be a handful for us. He’s a big, tall, athletic lad. Our center backs will have to be able to handle that.”
Though Montague and the Michigan State offense present a challenge for the Irish on the defensive half, Notre Dame is also going up against a top-15 defense and face another set of challenges offensively.
“We will play the way we normally play,” Clark said. “We know that they are a very good team, but we’ve got players that can open defenses up.”
For the Irish, doing so starts with finishing their chances on goal Clark explained.
“We have to make sure we fix some things,” Clark said. “The most important thing we need to do is convert our opportunities. I think that’s been a little bit of a challenge for us. It’s no use having opportunities if you don’t take them.”
Nonetheless, the mentality of the team is positive, Clark said, as the team looks forward to a thrilling finish to their 2013 campaign.
“I think [the players] are very excited that they’ve put themselves into such a good position,” Clark said. “I think they’re very aware that nothing concrete has yet been achieved, but they’re hoping that there is a lot of soccer ahead of them in the weeks ahead.”
Both the Irish and the Spartans will begin the final week of their respective regular seasons this afternoon, as the Irish travel to East Lansing, Mich. for a 3 p.m. matchup against Michigan State at DeMartin Stadium.
Contact Aaron Sant-Miller at [email protected]