Defending champs look to three-peat at IU Classic
Alex Carson | Thursday, August 28, 2014
The defending national champions are not waiting long to challenge themselves this year, as the No. 1 Irish will head down to Bloomington, Ind., to take on a pair of top-12 teams this weekend in the Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic to begin the regular-season.
Notre Dame will take on No. 12 Marquette on Friday at 5 p.m. before going up against No. 9 Georgetown on Sunday, with the first kick slated for 11:30 a.m.
The Irish have won the last two editions of the Labor Day weekend competition held annually at Indiana University’s Bill Armstrong Stadium. Irish coach Bobby Clark said he knows his team will have to put in a strong 180 minutes to stretch the streak to a third year.
“We’ll have to play our very best [to get results this weekend], it’s simple as that,” Clark said. “We’ll have to put in a top performance because we’re playing two top teams.”While the competition is tough for the Irish, this weekend is not much different compared to the rest of the schedule. Notre Dame plays just five teams this year that failed to receive a vote in the opening coaches’ poll. Adding to that competition, the Irish will play three players on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, the award presented to college soccer’s top player, this weekend.
In its first game, Notre Dame will face Marquette redshirt junior forward James “C.” Nortey. The Accra, Ghana native scored 10 goals and recorded two assists last year for the Golden Eagles en route to a Big East conference tournament title and a spot in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16.
On Sunday, the Irish will have to contend with two Hermann Trophy watch list members when they take on Georgetown. The Hoyas are led up front by junior forward Brandon Allen — who is coming off an 11-goal campaign in 2013 — and in back by sophomore defender Joshua Yaro. In Yaro’s 17 appearances last year for Georgetown, he and his teammates slated 12 clean sheets.
However, the Irish have their own member on the Hermann Trophy watch list in senior midfielder and team captain Nick Besler. But while Besler is back for this season, a couple of key players are not — Grant Van de Casteele and Harrison Shipp have both moved on to professional careers in the MLS. Clark said that while his team will be looking to replace Shipp, he does not expect graduate student forward Leon Brown to be Shipp’s replica.“Leon will start off in [Shipp’s] role, and he’ll be different,” Clark said. “Leon’s just has to be Leon and play Leon to the full, and that’s the key. You’ve got to play who you are.”
And while Brown played more of a “super-sub” role last year for the Irish, making 24 appearances while starting just three games, he made an impact on offense. The forward netted five goals and added three assists and was clutch in crucial moments of last season. Brown scored both Irish goals in the tournament-clinching, 2-1 victory over Southern Methodist at the IU Classic last year and tallied the equalizer in Notre Dame’s 2-1 national title game victory over Maryland.
Looking to take their third consecutive Adidas/IU Credit Union Classic championship, the Irish begin their campaign to defend the title Friday against Marquette at 5 p.m.