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Men’s Soccer

Senior Thomas Ueland has high hopes for final year with new head coach

| Thursday, August 23, 2018

The No. 14 ranked Irish will take the field of Alumni Stadium against St. Louis on Friday in their first game of the season, sporting a new head coach in Chad Riley and a new play style. However, before the first whistle is blown, one player will be looking to make the most of his final round in the Irish jersey — Thomas Ueland

Peter St. John | The Observer
Irish senior forward Thomas Ueland looks towards a teammate during Notre Dame’s 2-1 win over Northwester on Oct. 3 at Alumni Stadium.

Playing forward and midfielder for the Irish, Ueland, a senior, can usually be found on the wings, getting the ball into the box or into the net. The Lexington, Kentucky native has played an increasingly pronounced role in the lineup, spending his freshman year as a key reserve for the Irish, starting five times his sophomore season, and starting in thirteen matches during his junior campaign.

Despite the personal accolades however, Ueland does not focus on his stats, preferring to focus on being a team player instead.

“I try not to be as personally focused, [instead] more team focused,” Ueland said. “As a team, we obviously want to win a national championship … Any kind of personal things that come of that are kind of gravy.”

Barring a national championship this year, Ueland hopes that his biggest contribution to the team will be his attitude towards improving himself and his teammates.

“I don’t know if I would say I have a ‘I did this, and this is the best thing I did for the team’ [attitude]. I think it’s more of just trying to come to practice every day with an attitude of ‘how am I going to get better and how am I going to make the guys around me a little bit better?’ If I can do that, I think I’ve done my job,” he said.

Ueland said the Irish will be changing up their tactics under their new head coach. After spending the spring getting to know the new system and using the recent weeks to get the freshmen up-to-date, Notre Dame plans to stick to a more attack-oriented 4-4-2 formation than that which was used under former head coach Bobby Clark.

“The old coach, coach [Bobby] Clark, he played a 4-4-2,” Ueland said. “He played with two strikers, four midfielders, and four in the back. [Coach Clark] was very defensive minded – our defensive shape with him was very good, we always knew what we were doing. Coach [Chad] Riley has come in and he’s given us more freedom … in terms of going forward and being creative.

“Our starting position is a little bit higher up than in the old system. Instead of sitting off a little bit and then pressing from there, it’s more, we start a little bit higher and then try and win the ball in their half, then go immediately one-two passes to goal.”

While some may be concerned that this system will be very tiring for the team because of the reliance on sprint work, Ueland notes that they are “fortunate enough to have a very deep squad”.

Ueland said playing soccer at Notre Dame has been one of the most important parts of his college experience.

“I think [soccer] has made my experience [at Notre Dame] a lot better having this core group of guys that you spend a ton of time with, get to know really well and play with on the field,” Ueland said. “Off the field, they become some of your best friends, they’re [some] of the most good-natured people I’ve ever met. To be in a place where you can have that skill on the field but, then not be a jerk off the field is pretty unique to Notre Dame and it’s something I’m really grateful to be a part of.”

Ueland, a three-time ACC Academic Honor Roll honoree, said his favorite Notre Dame memory was a double-overtime game in 2015 against then-No. 14 Indiana.

“One of the most memorable moments that kind of jumps out [was in] freshman year,” he said. “We were playing Indiana, it’s one of my first games, and I’m fortunate enough to knack the winning goal in overtime to beat them. That was really an incredible experience for me, especially with [Indiana] being kind of our soccer rivals. Really an incredible – hard to put into words – [experience].”

That goal was his first collegiate career goal and his first of four goals in that season.

As for his goal this year, Ueland plans to apply to medical schools, and of course, to win the 2018 national championship.

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