With selection day for the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship only six weeks away, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have their work cut out for them to prove to the committee they deserve to be one of the 48 teams selected. An October schedule loaded with competitive ACC match-ups should give the Irish the opportunity to do just that. Notre Dame will begin their gauntlet of a month tomorrow night in Bloomington against the Indiana University Hoosiers.
The Irish enter this game with a 5-3-1 overall record, carrying a two game winning streak. Notre Dame’s last victory came Friday night against Boston College at Alumni Stadium. Junior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd, as well as the efforts of several freshmen, helped snag the Irish a hard fought victory.
While the Irish did find some bright spots in the match, they had nearly even possession and shots on target to a sub-.500 team. They will need to be more disciplined and decisive against the Hoosiers Wednesday.
The Hoosiers, despite being a historically dominant men’s soccer program, enter this match with a mere 4-2-3 record. They carry some questionable results, including a 3-3 tie at home to Portland and a draw at home to Michigan State, a team the Irish defeated 3-2 on the road. They also stumbled to a 2-2 draw in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines.
However, the Hoosiers do have some results that showcase their team’s talent and depth—including a 2-1 win over Butler, a 2-0 defeat of No. 20 Akron and a 4-1 rout of Northwestern. They also gave a then No. 1 (now No. 23) Clemson all they could handle on the road, barely falling at a score of 3-2. They suffered another close loss in Columbus against a strong Ohio State team, ranked 17th in the nation, only losing 2-1.
Besides their intense battle with ACC behemoth No. 7 Syracuse in New York, a game that ended with a gut-wrenching 1-0 loss for the Irish, this match may be their biggest test yet. With crucial ACC matches throughout the month and the tournament just on the horizon, now is the time for the Irish to find their best form.
They will need to soon in order to compete with sides such as No. 11 Louisville, No. 2 Duke and No. 25 Pittsburgh before the Nov. 14 Selection Show. Wednesday’s match against IU will serve as a litmus test for this team’s progression.
Head coach Chad Riley is aware of the challenges ahead, and what his team must do to continue to stack victories in a schedule where “every game is a fight”.
Riley said he urges his team to “trust the preparation that has led them up to this point” as well as “to focus on managing their time and minutes in training as much as they can.”
Riley was adamant that the team’s number one priority should always be to be “ready for games” as the “loaded schedule” begins to take a mental and physical toll on his side.
IU may not be an ACC opponent, but at this stage of the season, they are one of the most crucial games the Irish have left. They will need to give it all they have and continue their stretches of excellence from the past two games in order to defeat this historic program.
Notre Dame will take the field at Bill Armstrong Stadium at 7 p.m. EDT and will be streamed on the Big Ten Network.
Contact Adam Akan at firstname.lastname@example.org.