Irish lose nailbiter to Spartans on late goal
Charlotte Edmonds | Tuesday, September 18, 2018
On Monday, No. 8 Notre Dame entered its home matchup against No. 4 Michigan State ready to bounce back from its overtime loss to No. 2 Indiana last week and validate its recent climb in the polls. Despite controlling the game on the offensive side of the ball by recording six shots on goal to the Spartans’ three, the Irish (3-2-1, 1-0-0 ACC) were unable to avoid their second loss of the season when Michigan State (6-0-2) connected on their third attempt in the 89th minute of play to escape Alumni Stadium with a 1-0 win.
“We felt a little bit unfortunate to not come out with the result in that one,” head coach Chad Riley said of the 1-0 loss to the Hoosiers (3-1-0) last Tuesday. “So I know they were excited to play this game.”
Throughout the first 45 minutes, the Irish were unable to capitalize offensively, resulting in a scoreless opening period. Senior defender Feliecjen Dumas rocketed a shot that just cleared the cross bar in the 10th minute, while senior defender Patrick Berneski had a chance at the far post in the 16th minute, but the senior’s header went just wide of the post. Regardless, the Irish were able to disrupt the Spartan defense, recording seven shots in the half, including two on goal by sophomore forward Paul Rothrock, who came off the bench for the Irish in the 28th minute to replace senior forward Ian Aschieris. Rockroth’s strong first half earned him a position in the starting lineup after the break, a decision Riley said was about managing the game and the team’s energy levels.
“I think we were unlucky enough to not score a couple in the first half,” Riley said. “They’re a good team, and they made it difficult, but I have to say I was proud of the way we competed and played without getting the result that we wanted.”
After initially allowing the Irish space to control possession of the second half, the Spartans quickly made their offensive attack, getting two good looks at the goal within the first 10 minutes of the second period. After Michigan State senior forward DeJuan Jones was able to sneak behind the Notre Dame defense in the 56th minute, Irish senior goalkeeper Ryan Krutz made a diving save to force a corner kick and keep the Spartans off the scoreboard.
Notre Dame responded by putting pressure on the Spartan defense, earning five corner kicks and getting several shots from beyond the box that failed to miss Michigan State senior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague’s hands. The Spartan keeper made three critical saves on senior midfielder Sean MacLeod in the 65th minute, junior midfielder Tommy McCabe in the 66th minute and Aschieris — who subbed back in for Rothrock — in the 83rd minute to keep the Irish off the board.
After two close saves by Krutz on the half, the Spartans were able to break the scoreless deadlock and effectively put the match away when freshman forward Farai Mutatu snuck a shot from the left corner of the goal box over Krutz and into the back of the net by the far post. The second goal of Mutatu’s rookie season sent the Irish to their second-straight loss against a top-10 opponent — a result Riley said was tough given how the Irish played. Still, the first-year coach said he knows the quality of play the Irish have displayed against top teams will eventually show up on the scoreboard.
“We always say we want to marry a performance and a result,” Riley said. “And I think the performance was not far away. I think there are some things, especially when you get shut out, that we could’ve done better in the attack but … that’s the reality, keep creating those chances. They did a good job of them and they’ll start going in, but right now it’s going to be hard and we need to kind of double down on who we are and continue to create those quality chances.”
Despite letting in the late goal, Riley said he still felt good about Krutz’s performance.
“You’re playing quality opponents, they’re gonna get chances and you need your goalkeeper to make those saves,” he said. “He’s a very steady guy and a very good goalie.”
Despite these last two losses, Riley remains optimistic heading into Notre Dame’s third-straight top-10 matchup against No. 5 North Carolina. The Irish will face the Tar Heels Friday at 7 p.m. inside Alumni Stadium.
“We do this because it’ll prepare us and make us tougher,” Riley said. “At the end of the day, we know we don’t want to just compete, we want to win. You have to take it day by day.”