Bens: Time of possession needs to convert to goals
Meagan Bens | Thursday, September 20, 2018
After a strong start to the season, Notre Dame has dropped its last two matches at home, putting the team at potentially a critical junction to its postseason goals this early in the season. Six games into the season, any hope the Irish (3-2-1. 1-0-0 ACC) have of beating the projected odds of finishing similarly to last season will vary largely on if luck falls their way during the second half.
Consider their recent loss to No. 5 Michigan State, a game that was decided in the final minutes. The Irish and Spartans (6-0-2) battled during a scoreless first half. Returning for the second, Notre Dame was unable to capitalize on its chances, including three corner kicks earned in the final 10 minutes.
The goal that put Chad Riley’s squad away came within the last two minutes. What’s important to note is that the Irish held the opposition scoreless in the first half for the sixth-consecutive game. They were able to not only hold off the Spartans for the majority of the game, but even dominate the possession of the ball, outshooting them 11-6. However remarkable their effort was, they came up short of the extra push they needed at the end.
The 2-1 loss to No. 2 Indiana was so heartbreaking I chose to ignore it when evaluating Notre Dame’s overall record. For both the Hoosiers (6-1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) and Irish, it was a quality game between two talented opponents. Once again, the Irish were unable to capitalize on chances in the second half, sending the game into overtime. Although the game-winning goal was clearly offsides, the referee waved off the call, handing the Irish their first loss of the season.
Losing to two top opponents in the final minutes, the Irish have a preview of the rest of their season. College soccer boils down to fighting to the last minute, and for the Irish, finishing on their set pieces will make all the difference.
Every game they continue to improve physically and mentally with their considerably tough schedule, one of the strongest in the country. Chad Riley has repeatedly said the team’s mentality and level of competition is rarely an issue. The momentum might run out towards the end of the game, but hopefully the more chances they create, the higher the odds they will finish.
With the bulk of their season left, Notre Dame’s season will be a journey, but it has the qualities to sustain elite caliber status. They returned 23 players from last season, in which they went 11-7-2 overall, reaching the semifinals of the ACC Championship and qualifying for the NCAA championship for the 20th time in program history.
They have the talent. They have the desire. They have the ability to pose a threat to any opponent. They just need a little bit of that Irish luck to push them over the barrier in the final minutes.
With seven ACC games left, there’s still time for the Irish to settle in and improve their end-game performances. But when the clock hits the 90th minute, Notre Dame fans better hope their team’s possession can translate into goals.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.