Irish end exhibitions with draw against Broncos
Hayden Adams | Tuesday, August 27, 2019
On a rainy evening in South Bend, Notre Dame squared off against Western Michigan in an exhibition match Monday at Alumni Stadium, ending in a draw. The Irish, having lost last season in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship to Indiana, falling just short of qualifying for the College Cup, are ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason by the United Soccer Coaches poll. Irish head coach Chad Riley spoke of how his team handled the challenging opponent.
“I thought we grew from our game against Marquette,” Riley said. “I think Western Michigan is a really tough team, I think they’re really good on set pieces. They’re very direct in getting chances and really test your back line. I think for the most part we stood up well. … I was pleased with about 60 minutes of it. I think the last 30 could have been a little bit better.”
The match began with both teams trading possession and the Irish attempting to build an attack from their territory. However, the Broncos came out aggressive and managed to get some opportunities in the Irish box.
The Irish also had their fair share of chances but were turned away by the Broncos defense. The first real opportunity for the Irish came 17 minutes into the first half when sophomore forward Jack Lynn spun off his defender and took a left-footed shot that Broncos sophomore keeper Isaac Walker saved.
Four minutes later, the Irish managed the first breakthrough of the game, as Western Michigan lost the ball and Irish junior midfielder Aiden McFadden gave a lead pass to Lynn, who chipped the ball over Walker and into the back of the Broncos net to take a 1-0 lead. Lynn and graduate student forward Ian Aschieris, the two leading returning scorers for the Irish, will be counted on offensively for the Irish, but according to Riley, the roster is not short on contributors.
“You’re always in search of more goals, and I do think those two will get some,” Riley said. “I think Aiden McFadden will get some, I think [sophomore forward] Tyler Shea’s done a good job off the bench, [sophomore midfielder] Ben Giacobello’s done a good job, [senior forward] John Rea’s gotten good spots. So I think there’s a lot of guys that can contribute.”
The Broncos would respond however, as a foul on Irish sophomore midfielder Mohamed Omar gave Western Michigan a chance to set up. After an entry pass by the Broncos, an errant clearance attempt by the Irish sent the ball high into the air. As the ball came down, Broncos freshman midfielder Brennan Creek managed to head the ball over the last line of Irish defenders and sophomore forward Mike Melaragni put the ball past Irish senior goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull to knot the score at one apiece.
With two minutes left in the first half, the Irish dodged another bullet as the Broncos had an opportunity to score with a cross that passed directly in front of the goal. However, the ball was narrowly missed, and the teams went into the half still tied at one. Both teams finished the half with five totals shots and two on target.
The Broncos controlled the start of the second period, keeping the ball in the Irish half and racking up numerous scoring opportunities off corner kicks. The Irish eventually found a rhythm and showed their aggressiveness, looking to thread several lead passes past the defense.
However, the game would remain a back-and-forth affair and neither team would be able to capitalize on their opportunities as both teams stayed stout defensively, bringing the match to a close with a draw. Riley was happy with the way his players competed, and specifically had praise for Turnbull’s performance in the net.
“I think there were a lot of good performances,” Riley said. “I think it was good for Duncan in goal to get 90 minutes for the first time, so I think he had a good solid game, but I think overall there were quite a few good performances.”
While failing to come away with a win, Riley believes his team accomplished what they wanted to coming into the game.
“I think the one thing we wanted to kind of improve upon was our mentality and reaction to mistakes, and I thought we did a good job,” Riley said. “Soccer’s a game that never stops except for a couple of moments during the game but [only] really at halftime, and so I thought that was really good. I thought overall there were a lot more positives than negatives.”
Now with three exhibition matches under their belt, the Irish are set to open the season against Saint Louis. Riley said the preseason presented an opportunity for the team to grow.
“I think you learn every day,” Riley said. “I think we’re a competitive team, you know, and I think, to me, I love the mindset that we’ll continue to grow. I think they’re competitors and I think they’re hungry just to get better.”
The Irish will play their season opener Saturday at 8 p.m. in St. Louis.