Brown steps up for offense
Zach Klonsinski | Tuesday, November 18, 2014
During last year’s regular season, since-graduated forward Harrison Shipp bolstered Notre Dame’s offensive production. Shipp might have finished with a team-high 12 goals in all, but when the NCAA tournament rolled around, another Irish player stepped up: now-junior midfielder Patrick Hodan. The then-sophomore scored at least one goal in both ACC tournament games and four of the five NCAA tournament games for the Irish. His seven goals during the postseason led the team, after only contributing four during the regular season.
Funny how the tables can turn in less than a season.
And again, another Irish offensive threat has emerged the latter-half of this season — in a way not unlike Hodan’s rise last year.
Graduate student forward Leon Brown scored three goals early in the season for Notre Dame before a drought through the month of October. Brown had been out of the goal column since Sept. 26, when he scored in Notre Dame’s 2-0 win over North Carolina. But, come Nov. 1 against Pitt, Brown found the net again and led Notre Dame’s 4-1 victory with two goals.
“I wasn’t worried, it was more ‘keep playing well enough to help the team,’” Brown said last night before the team’s film session. “Obviously, as a forward scoring goals is important but, if you’re not getting those goals you’ve got to do other things to keep going and help the team win. It was definitely not the best streak for me … but it was nice to get back into it.”
And ‘get back into it’ he has. In addition to finding the back of the net twice against Pittsburgh, Brown scored in both ACC tournament games Notre Dame played before their run ended, to bring him to seven on the season.
“I think getting those two goals against Pitt definitely got my focus back in it and got my confidence up,” Brown said. “Hopefully it’ll lead on through the NCAA tournament.”
Brown’s role on this year’s team has been more than just his play on the field. The graduate student found himself the oldest forward on the squad looking to fill a void left by Shipp’s graduation. With two freshmen forwards in Jon Gallagher and Jeffrey Farina seeing plenty of minutes for the Irish, Brown stepped into the gap.
“The two freshmen are learning as they go, which is nice,” Brown said. “[I’m] just keeping them in it, teaching them things about making runs, about defending … because [forwards] start the first line of defense.
“It’s a little different without [Shipp] up there, so I felt I needed to take that leadership role, become the ‘voice’ of the forwards, so to speak. … I just realized that void needed to be filled and felt I was the right guy to do that.”
Brown’s growth as a leader has certainly not gone unnoticed by his teammates or his coaches.
“He quietly just goes about his business,” Irish coach Bobby Clark said. “He’s now showing that he is a leader out there. … I’ve seen him grow throughout this season. Maybe it’s because he’s got two young guys beside him that he’s got to lead and he’s suddenly finding a new ability he’s got, which is great for him, great for the team and I think everybody’s benefiting.”
After the Irish were eliminated in the ACC semifinals, Brown said the team was disappointed but also knew that was not their end goal.
“We know that the national championship is what we really want,” Brown said.
With the second national championship of his Notre Dame career still in close site, Brown said he really did not even know Notre Dame until Aaron Maund, a former Irish defender (2012) and fellow graduate of The Roxbury Latin School, convinced him to come out and take a visit during Brown’s junior year.
“I came out for about a week during my spring break and I really loved it,” Brown said. “I just kept talking to [Clark] and committed.
“I love the community aspect that you find here. There aren’t a lot of places like it. I actually compare it to my high school, where there were 300 boys. … It helped me transition pretty well.”
Brown said Notre Dame has made a lasting impression on him to look out for those around him.
“I think Notre Dame changed me as a person,” Brown said. “Especially being on the soccer team here, it’s a big team sport, so you have to put your own needs and desires aside for the sake of the team. … In the next few years, wherever I may be, the training that I’ve got here at will help me.”
Brown is unsure what exactly the future holds for him but said that he’ll really get a chance to start thinking about it in another month. Until then, he and his teammates will have the winner of Ohio State and Akron forefront in their minds, at least until Sunday when the Irish set out to defend last season’s national championship at 7 p.m. in Alumni Stadium.