New Irish leadership in place as season kicks off
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, August 21, 2015
Patrick Hodan buried a low, curling shot off a pass from Connor Klekota to lift Notre Dame to a 1-0 victory over Butler on Wednesday night, solidifying what has been a wholesale makeover for the Irish since last season.
Hodan and Klekota, both senior midfielders, were selected as two of the team’s tri-captains back in the spring, along with graduate student defender Max Lachowecki. The three are tasked with the difficult role of replacing nine players from last year’s squad, including midfielder Nick Besler, the fifth-overall pick in last year’s MLS Draft, but Irish head coach Bobby Clark said he likes what he’s seen from the trio so far.
“The players pick the captains,” Clark said. “We never pick them right away … Because nobody really knows and I just tell the senior class, ‘You take over. You lead us through the early part of the spring.’
“I think if the staff had been choosing we would have chosen the same people. That’s the amazing part about it: Nearly every time the players pick who we would pick. … They know who’s got respect in the locker room.”
Clark also credited Notre Dame with doing a great job of preparing juniors for leadership roles through courses offered by the athletic department.
It was not just the incoming seniors who were working hard and getting ready for the season either, Clark said, calling this year’s squad one of the fittest he’s ever had coming into a fall camp.
“They’ve worked very hard at it,” Clark said. “They really want to be good. I think they were a little disappointed the way the season finished last year, but at the same time they know it’s such a difficult league we play in that I think they’re aware of the task ahead of them as well.”
With so many departures there are a number of positions up in the air, but the most intriguing may be who will replace the graduated Patrick Wall in goal for the Irish. Wall, who compiled a career record of 38-7-10, played every minute for Notre Dame the last two years.
The Irish have three goalkeepers on their roster this year: senior Brian Talcott, junior Chris Hubbard and freshman Ryan Krutz. Hubbard has played in both exhibition games so far this season after Talcott suffered a concussion playing a pick-up game with some of the other players on the team just before fall camp began, although the two split time in the spring season.
“We thought it was going to be a battle,” Clark said. “We’ll need two goalies, and we’d like three goalies, but we certainly need a starter and someone who can back up.”
Clark praised his team’s work ethic and desire, but said there is still much to be done as the Irish tune up for a difficult regular season schedule, particularly in limiting turnovers in their own half of the field.
After exhibition matches at Ohio State and Butler, the Irish will take to the Alumni Stadium pitch for the first time Monday night against Saint Louis in the team’s annual Grassroots Soccer Game, which will collect proceeds for a charity very special to Clark. His son, Tommy, founded Grassroots Soccer to help fight the spread of HIV in Africa by educating teenage boys about how to prevent themselves from contracting the disease, as well as how to treat it if they do test positive.
“We coached in Africa back in 1983, and the whole family was out there,” Clark said. “[Tommy] went back there after he graduated from Dartmouth, and he went back there for a year to teach. He realized a lot of people he knew, especially younger people, had died or were ill from HIV.”
Clark said he wanted to encourage the student body to come out to the game and give a small donation to the foundation — and to check out the home team in action.
“Even the students, I’m asking them just for a dollar,” Clark said. “Nobody’s going to stop them if they don’t, of course, but I’ve always matched whatever they can put in. So the more money they put in, the more it’ll cost me.
“I just hope there aren’t any millionaires that come walking in. I could be in serious trouble.”
Notre Dame and Saint Louis kick off in the Annual Grassroots Game at Alumni Stadium on Monday at 7 p.m.