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Men’s Soccer

Irish aim to get back on track after dropping three straight at home

| Tuesday, September 25, 2018

No. 8 Notre Dame will seek to end a three-game losing streak Tuesday night as they host an undefeated Xavier team. The Irish (3-3-1) are coming off losses against three top-5 teams in No. 2 Indiana, No. 5 Michigan State and No. 3 North Carolina. The Musketeers (3-0-4) are coming off a double-overtime draw against St. John’s, pushing their undefeated streak to seven games to start the season.

Head coach Chad Riley said the Musketeers play a “similar formation” to North Carolina, but he expressed confidence that if the Irish can play to the best of their ability they should come out on top.

Connery McFadden | The Observer

Irish senior midfielder Blake Townes challenges a North Carolina player to the ball during Notre Dame’s 1-0 loss to the Tar Heels in overtime on Sept. 21 at Alumni Stadium.

“We know some of the things we’ll see in terms of the spacing of the field. They’re a very good defensive team, so they’ll be tough to score on. I’ve played them in the past and they will be a very hard-working team that’s tough to break down,” Riley said. “They have some good, mature, older attacks that will keep us busy [on defense]. But, I think that that last little 10 percent in our own performance and we’ll be in good shape.”

The last three games for the Irish saw them losing by one goal, with the Indiana game going into overtime and the North Carolina one lasting into double overtime. Riley said his team is trying to focus on taking one game at a time and not so much on the current string of defeats.

“When you play evenly matched teams, the game can go either way. We train ourselves on focusing on each game as it goes,” he said. “[Yesterday], we focused on some video from the North Carolina game about some of the opportunities we created and how to get in better position to finish them. I think that’s the way you [get over a streak], you see what’s happened, how was your performance on the night, and how do you move forward from there — because some things carry over into the next game and some things don’t.”

Coach Riley admits the team has been close in recent games to executing the offense, but he said it needs a bit more progress to get there. He also said the team’s leadership and spirit is fine despite recent results.

“I think our attacking plays are almost working right — anytime you get shutout twice then that final piece of finishing the chance hasn’t been working,” he said. “I think a lot of our collective team play has created a lot of dangerous moments that we’ll start taking advantage of. With that said, our last three games were against the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5-ranked team in the country, so we knew it would be a close contest.”

The Irish are aware that competing well in the ACC is no easy task, Riley said, but for the team to move forward, they need to start seeing games through to the end.

“We know we’re right there, we just need to keep going. We know who we are right now, the key comes in the next phase of the season. You got to go from being close to closing these games out and getting some results,” he said. “I feel that we’re in a good spot, the spirit of the team is good, they know where we need to be. There’s good leadership in the team, and ever since we joined the ACC we knew our schedule would be tough, so [the team] knows how to deal with it and get in the right frame of mind.”

The last three games have been at home, and the Irish take a lot of pride in defending their home turf, Riley said.

“There’s just a huge amount of pride in our team when we play at home. Not only the fans, but even the grounds crew that takes care of the field and stadium,” he said. “We really talk a lot about that, so I think that there’s just a lot of [pride] to make sure that our performance is something that the people can be proud of. There’s always that extra bit of pride that goes into home games.”

Notre Dame’s matchup with Xavier starts at 7 p.m. at Alumni Stadium, as they try to get back on track and secure a win at home.

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