Notre Dame finishes road stint with a victory
Liam Coolican | Wednesday, September 25, 2019
No. 21 Notre Dame men’s soccer team travelled to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the Michigan State Spartans on Thursday night. The Irish (4-2-1, 0-2 ACC) triumphed 1-0 on a late goal from freshman midfielder Michael Pellegrino. It was the final game of a tough three game road trip, after the Irish battled No. 4 Indiana to 1-1 draw on Sep. 17, and losing to No. 11 North Carolina 2-0 on Friday. Head coach Chad Riley was pleased with the win.
“It feels great. Winning games with our schedule is going to be a challenge at times, so any time the team puts in a good effort and gets the victory, it’s always a good thing,” Riley said.
Michigan State, who, despite not being ranked last season, made it all the way to the national semifinals, was seeking its first win of the season. They have battled injuries throughout the season, and were missing multiple key contributors on Thursday.
Desperately needing a win as well, Notre Dame came out strong and controlled the ball early, taking multiple shots in the first few minutes. Then, Michigan State had multiple solid chances in the 12th minute. Sophomore forward Farai Mutatu spun by Irish senior center back Senan Farrelly and fired a shot towards the goal which was just knocked away by Irish junior goalkeeper Keagan McLaughlin. Farrelly appeared to injure himself on the play, grabbing the back of his leg, and he had to come off after missing a game vs. Clemson and not starting the game against Indiana due to an injury last week. He is a very important piece of the Irish’s strong defense. Riley said his injury was tough for the team, but the squad reacted well.
“You never like to lose anyone early, especially defenders, because you don’t typically sub them a lot. We have good depth, and we’re getting some other guys back healthy, and that’s allowed us to keep some depth back there,” he said. “Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, but it was a jolt to the system early, but I think the guys handled it well.”
On the ensuing corner kick, Michigan State again nearly scored, but McLaughlin again turned the effort away, and on the next possession, Alex Shterenberg fired a shot in from just outside the goal box, but McLaughlin smothered it.
For the rest of the first half, possession went back and forth, but neither side had a strong chance. Notre Dame controlled the ball for stretches, but the Michigan State defense pressured the Irish as soon as they got the ball. Mutatu continued to make runs down the field for the Spartans, but his teammates were never able to find him for a good opportunity. Both teams had to resort to shots from distance, as the defenses prevented them from getting any looks close to the goal.
At the beginning of the second half, both defenses appeared to settle in. Notre Dame had an opportunity in the 55th minute when junior midfielder Aiden McFadden was awarded a free kick to the left of the goal box. He crossed it into the box but it was headed out of bounds. Riley was happy with both the defense and the offense in the second half.
“We handled their transition and counter-attacking moments better [in the second half]. I think our attacking was good, shots, crosses and corners, instead of turning the ball over. I think the [second half] was overall a little bit sharper, I don’t think we were doing anything wrong in the first half, but we were sharper in the second half,” Riley said.
Just a few minutes later, sophomore forward Jack Lynn made a run down the field, caught Michigan State goal-keeper Hunter Morse out of position and passed it across the box to fellow sophomore forward Tyler Shea, but the shot was deflected out of bounds by a Spartans defender.
McFadden had another great opportunity in the 68th minute when he launched a shot from about 15 yards out, but he was denied by a spectacular save from Morse.
Notre Dame finally broke the scoreless tie in the 81st minute, after a free kick was sent into the box. Morse punched the ball out, but it deflected right to Michael Pellegrino who sent it into the back of the net. It was the Irish’s first goal in over 200 minutes of play. However, Riley says the inconsistency of the offense is nothing to worry about.
“Some of it’s rest, but we also want to see the situations using video, help people understand what their options are. A lot of what we do now is watching ourselves do well. Scoring goals in a game situation is hard,” he said. “It’s hard to do, so just continue to work at things, continue to have confidence, and the goals will come.”
Michigan State had a final chance to equalize with less than a minute left in the match, as a chip shot went towards the goal, but McLaughlin pounced on it to secure the victory. It was the Spartans’ first shot on goal of the second half.
Notre Dame will return home to take on the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday night at 7 p.m.