Irish make NCAA quarterfinals under new head coach
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Friday, May 17, 2019
Chad Riley’s first season as head coach of the Notre Dame men’s soccer team is wrapped up as they recorded one of their strongest finishes in program history. In a transition year for the program that saw the end of Bobby Clark’s coaching era, the Irish made it to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 2013 and held their opponents to less than two goals in 17 of 21 matches. One of the most important aspects of the season for Riley was the support he got from the veteran players of the team, aiding him to a smoother coaching transition.
“I think we can always improve,” Riley said. “I think our senior class did a great job in a year with transition. I think [that] no matter how much you try to make transitions smooth, even if it’s someone familiar, it’s always a challenging time. I think the guys really responded to it.“
After holding Indiana to a scoreless first half, Notre Dame (11-7-3, 4-3-1 ACC) conceded a goal in the 64th minute of the NCAA quarterfinals that gave the home team a ticket to the semifinals. Despite the loss, this was the fourth NCAA quarterfinals appearance for the Irish.
“We went to the first NCAA quarterfinal in a few years. We played a good team in Indiana who knocked us out, but we had chances to win the game. That is the level that we want to be at every year,” Riley said.
The defense for the Irish was solid this season. For 20 out of the 21 games, Notre Dame held opponents scoreless in the first half. In addition, the Irish held opponents to a 0.098 shot percentage on the year.
While Riley expressed concern over the Irish offense, which only averaged 1.43 goals per game, he said he plans to address his offense this offseason to improve on his program’s 2018 campaign.
“One thing, we want to score more goals than we did last year. Scoring goals is hard so, we’re working a lot on our attack,” Riley said. “The biggest thing will be, can we be a little more potent in the attack while still being a team that’s very good defensively.”
During the spring, junior midfielder Tommy McCabe got drafted by Cincinnati FC in the MLS Draft. Senior forward Thomas Ueland decided against entering the draft to pursue medical school. The team also took a 10-day trip to England to play three friendlies as well as get a better look at professional English soccer. The spring was capped off with a win against the under-18 Mexican national team.
Riley noted the importance of the spring as a time for individual player growth and team chemistry building.
“The winter and spring training time is so important. The games that you get to play shows you where you are as a team because you’re developing as a team but it’s also a time where we really focus on developing the individual. It’s when guys can really make a big jump in their play,” Riley said.
After one full season as head coach, and many other years as a player and assistant, Riley says that the best part of being at Notre Dame is that the team strives to be the best on and off the pitch.
“At Notre Dame what I like is that you’re able to do everything at the highest level. It’s not just a great academic experience and an OK athletic experience and a community you’re not involved in. What I love about Notre Dame is we should be fighting for national championships, we should be finding our academic passions and excelling in the classroom, and we should be making a real impact in the community of Notre Dame, the community of South Bend, wherever everyone focuses their intentions,” Riley said.
With Riley at the helm of this program, Irish fans can expect next season’s team to be more polished on offense and to build off their strong season.