Notre Dame set to begin ACC play against Syracuse
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Friday, September 7, 2018
No. 12 Notre Dame will visit Syracuse on Friday to open up ACC play ahead of its upcoming marquee matchup against No. 4 Indiana at home Tuesday. The Irish (2-0-1, 0-0 ACC) are coming off a two-win weekend in which they beat UConn and Dartmouth and hope to carry that momentum forward on the road against the Orange and beyond.
Despite Syracuse (2-1-0, 0-0 ACC) going winless in ACC play last season, Irish head coach Chad Riley was cautious about counting out the Orange as an easy win, noting that the Irish still have to refine their play.
“A lot of it during this time [of the season] is sharpening up what you can do with the ball and getting exposed to different teams. UConn and Dartmouth were both good but, I think Syracuse will be a different type of team, it’ll be a slightly different challenge for us both on attack and defense. I think it’ll be a different game this Friday,” Riley said.
The main difference in facing the Orange will be the two-striker formation that will contrast with the one-striker formation employed by UConn and Dartmouth. Riley also stated that Syracuse will be much quicker in getting the ball into its attacking half, something for which the Irish will have to adjust.
Although the Irish have not yet started preparation for the game against Indiana — waiting until the game against Syracuse is over to do that — Riley is certain his players are excited to play a top-10 team. Nevertheless, the Syracuse game is the ACC regular-season opener for both the Irish and the Orange and Riley is not taking his chances.
“I think we will be [excited to play a top-10 team]. One of the biggest things for us — there’s a lot of great games on the schedule — but, this [game against Syracuse] is our first chance to make a positive step towards winning the ACC regular season,” he said. “We’ll be focused on [the Syracuse] game until it’s over and then we’ll start thinking about Indiana, but I’m sure that [the players] know what’s coming up, they must be really excited of playing Indiana at home.”
Last weekend, the Irish played both games on a neutral field in Indianapolis, making this next matchup against Syracuse their first true away game. Riley commented on the importance of staying disciplined throughout their travels.
“You have to try to control all the things that you can control: make sure the guys eat well, get good rest,” Riley said. “I think — knowing this group a little bit — they like playing on the road too. There was no home field advantage for either team this past weekend but we’ll get familiar with Syracuse. It’s also about making sure you don’t get too excited too early before the game.”
While there have been many bright spots on the team already, graduate student and captain Patrick Berneski received praise from his head coach for his performance and leadership thus far.
“There’s been a lot of great performances so far but, I think our captain Patrick Berneski has done a great job of being a vocal leader as well as being a leader by example,” Riley said. “He’s also gotten to be dangerous on set pieces, he’s scored a couple of goals, really done a great job. There’s a number of other great performers — too many to single out — but Patrick has done a great job in these could of weeks of the regular season,”
Notre Dame’s ACC opener against Syracuse will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday at Syracuse University Soccer Stadium.