No. 8 Irish set to play No. 4 Michigan State in top-10 matchup
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Monday, September 17, 2018
Following a postponed match against Virginia, Notre Dame sets its eyes on a tough home match against Michigan State. The No. 8 Irish (3-1-1) will face a Spartan team that is 5-0-2 and ranked No. 4.
Due to the threat Hurricane Florence, Friday’s away game at Virginia was cancelled, but head coach Chad Riley stated the two schools are working on figuring out a makeup date for that game and that the date, or lack thereof, will be announced later this week.
In the meanwhile, coach Riley said that the Irish used the few extra days of training to work on things the team typically is unable to do during two-game weeks.
“Usually the day before, we’ll start doing some things geared towards Michigan State but, really what [the game’s postponement] enabled us to do is work on some things that we don’t get to train whenever we’re playing two games a week. It gave us a chance to have some teaching sessions that we wouldn’t have had,” Riley said. “Again, while we always want to play and compete, the postponement of the Virginia game gave us an opportunity for another couple of days of training to work on things that we wanted to [train for] that we might not have [done] if we played the Virginia game.”
The Spartans are a well-oiled machine, fifth in the nation in scoring offense, with an average of 2.67 goals per game. Michigan State also ranks first in the nation in assists per game with 3.83. Riley acknowledged Michigan State is a good, balanced team.
“I think [Michigan State are] a pretty balanced team,” he said. “They’ve got good players going forward, they got a couple of good attacking players, and they’re a smart defensive team. They’re not going to try and beat themselves by mistake so, we’re going to have to play well. They’re a balanced, veteran team, that plays well on both sides of the ball.”
The Irish have only trailed once so far this season (against Indiana last week), and have had more rest than the Spartans, and lead the all-time series against Michigan State 17-7-6. Furthermore, Riley said the Irish are very good at pressing their opponents and are a dangerous team in transition.
“I think our pressing is quite good, so [Michigan State will] want to figure out the weaknesses in our pressing,” Riley said. “They want to deal with us in transition, I think we’re a dynamic team when we win the ball and get forward quickly. And then I think we try to be a very good team in the flanks so, they’ll try to make sure they’re solid, defensively, in those areas.”
While the Irish are ranked top-10 in the United Coaches Poll, coach Riley said the poll that’s most important to the team is the NCAA Men’s Soccer RPI ranking. These current early non-RPI polls aren’t of much concern to the team, Riley said.
“With this group, they’ve been in and around the top-10, top-20, most of their career,” he “They really understand that at the end of the day, the ranking we really concern ourselves about is the RPI. That hasn’t been officially released yet. It’s always nice to be recognized and ranked in the top-10 but, I think the team has matured to realize those are great things and we’d rather be ranked than not ranked but, we’re more concerned about getting results and the RPI ranking as that gets released.”
Riley said the team is still finding itself, but by the end of September or early October, Irish fans can expect to see the best the team can offer.