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Men’s Soccer

Carson: Don’t worry about rankings, stats

| Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When the now-No. 5 Irish played out a scoreless draw with No. 9 Georgetown on Sunday, a natural reaction might have been to look at Notre Dame’s shot advantage in the game and determine that the result was a bit unfair to the defending national champions. The Irish outshot the Hoyas 23-9 (8-3 shots on goal) and for the most part, controlled play on the pitch but failed to come away as the winners after 110 minutes.

Some might instinctively think it’s a cause for concern — how can you dominate the shots department by such a wide margin and fail to win? And what does a draw in the opening weekend say about Notre Dame’s chances for a repeat?

Irish graduate student forward Leon Brown anticipates a Maryland player’s next move towards the ball in Notre Dame’s 1-1 draw against ACC-rival Maryland on Oct. 8 at Alumni Stadium.Zachary Llorens
Irish graduate student forward Leon Brown anticipates a Maryland player’s next move towards the ball in Notre Dame’s 1-1 draw against ACC-rival Maryland on Oct. 8 at Alumni Stadium.
The answer to the second question is easy — just breathe. The answer to the first explains why the second need not be asked — it’s all in the nature of the sport. Due to the relatively low number of scoring plays in soccer when compared to sports like football and basketball, a result that’s a little on the fluky side might be a little more likely to happen. In a basketball game, it should be expected that more often than not, a guard will convert a 12-foot, wide-open jump shot or that if a football team gets inside the red zone, it should at least come away with three points.

But soccer isn’t necessarily as straightforward. When you have the ball at the edge of the penalty area, you might still have to beat a defender and the goalkeeper in order to score. Take last year’s match between Chelsea and West Ham United in the United Kingdom’s Barclays Premier League for example. The two teams played to a 0-0 draw, reflective often of a game in which both teams were equal. But that was far from the case. Chelsea outshot its opponent 39-1. It controlled 72 percent of the possession time — yet still failed to win.

It’s why this early in the year that shots — and especially those put on target — mean more than goals. The Irish outshot then-No. 12 Marquette and Georgetown by a combined 40-20 over the weekend’s 200 minutes of action and held a 14-6 edge in shots on goal. And against two teams that entered the weekend in the top 12 of the rankings, those statistics mark something to be upbeat about as the Irish head down the path of their season.

And while you don’t want to read too much into goals scored in such a small sample space, it can only be a good thing for the Irish that graduate student forward Leon Brown got on the scoresheet in the season opener. Brown — who scored five times in 24 appearances last year — only made three starts and took the starting position vacated by Harrison Shipp. Shipp, of course, led the Irish last year in both goals (12) and assists (10) and now plies his trade with the Chicago Fire, with which he’s already scored six goals and recorded five assists.

And for Notre Dame to defend its national championship this year, it is probably going to need someone to step up and perform in the position left by Shipp. Brown fits that role as a veteran with eight collegiate goals to his name. Granted, he won’t be Shipp — as Clark said last week, “Leon just needs to be Leon” — but getting off on the right foot is certainly promising for forwards, as so much of their performance is dependent on the confidence they have to put the ball in the back of the net.

So rather than taking a look at the scoreline and the latest NSCAA coaches poll that dropped Notre Dame from No. 1 to No. 5, take a look at how the game went. There’s nothing so far to indicate that the Irish aren’t candidates for a second consecutive national title.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Carson

Alex Carson graduated from Notre Dame in 2017 after majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and living in O’Neill Hall. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, but born in Youngstown, Ohio, Carson is a Cleveland sports fan convinced that he’s already lived the “best day of his life.” At The Observer, Carson was first a Sports Writer, then served as an Associate Sports Editor (2015/16) and an Assistant Managing Editor (2016/17), before finishing his tenure as a Senior Sports Writer. A man of strong convictions, he ardently believes that Carly Rae Jepsen's 2015 release E•MO•TION is the greatest album of his generation, and wakes up early on Saturday mornings to listen, or occasionally watch, his favorite least-favorite sports team, Aston Villa. When he isn’t writing, Carson spends his time counting down the days to the next running of the Indianapolis 500 and reminding people that the Victory March starts with the lyric, “Rally sons of Notre Dame,” not “Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.”

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