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ND Men’s Soccer

Red-hot Roou strikes again in 1-0 Notre Dame win

| Monday, September 4, 2023

In a Friday match marked by physicality and missed opportunities, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team edged Northern Illinois. Despite registering 26 shots, their most against a Division I opponent in four years, the Irish tallied just one 14th minute goal from junior forward Matthew Roou that proved to be enough.

“You can go in those games, you can miss some chances and then you get frustrated and your performance drops off quite a bit. But I think our team did a good job of keeping a positive mentality,” Irish head coach Chad Riley said. “I think we had to grind it out to close out the game. We had moments to get a few goals, but we didn’t and I’m proud of the way they stuck together.”

Success at home, a hallmark of Notre Dame’s 2021 College Cup run, went missing early on last season. But the Irish have capitalized on a rare six-game homestand in 2023, drawing with second-ranked Indiana and earning consecutive clean sheets.

“When people come to play us at Alumni Stadium, it’s our fortress – it’s our home,” Roou said. “So we can’t let them come in here and beat us.”

The Irish opened the match quietly, producing just one shot through a dozen minutes. But as the 15-minute mark approached, Notre Dame’s flaming forward delivered again. 

As two players went to ground on a tie-up in the box, senior defender Paddy Burns cleaned up the loose ball. Upon arriving, the captain subtly flicked a cross just inside the penalty spot for Roou. Fresh off a hat trick Sunday, Roou swung his left foot, striking the airborne ball with confidence. The volley twisted inside the left post for the junior’s fourth goal of the young season.

“I think [our attack] starts with the defense. We were just locked on and everyone was defending behind the ball, and [we] got a lot of transition moments to counter them,” Roou said. “The offense was just flowing, everyone was working together and clicking well – everything but the finishing.”

Indeed, Notre Dame wouldn’t add on during the game’s remaining 76 minutes. Huskies keeper Jakub Rojek baffled the Irish, recording a career-high ten saves. Yet it was senior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd (one save) who picked up his second career blanking of NIU.

In the 21st minute, a misplay between Rojek and his center back left the net open for junior forward Eno Nto. But Nto, shooting from a difficult angle, caught the right post. Ten minutes later, senior forward Daniel Russo followed an Nto shot with a miss just above the bar. A similar fate befell Russo on a volley in the 56th minute. 

Played toward goal by sophomore midfielder KK Baffour in the 81st minute, Roou nearly captured a brace. But his low strike slithered just wide of the left post. In the game’s waning moments, Rojek made his finest save, redirecting a point-blank drive from Nto. He and Baffour paced the Irish with six shots, followed by Roou’s five.

The Huskies’ best chance to equalize came off an 86th-minute corner kick. After a partial Notre Dame clearance, Amo Mashigo smashed the left post from just inside the 18. Northern Illinois registered eight shots on the night with five coming after halftime.

“You want to close out close games well. At the end of the day, in college soccer, anybody can kick a ball from halfway into the box,” Riley said. “You get corners, you get things like that, so you’re gonna have to defend well.”

Amongst the many opportunities were a dozen yellow cards – nine going against the Huskies. Late in the second half, NIU’s Jakub Drazek was booked twice in 22 seconds, earning a shockingly sudden red card.

“You just want to keep the guys cool and keep their heads,” Riley said. “We talked about it before the game, we want to finish with 11 players. We did and they didn’t.”

Now 2-0-1 through three matches, the Irish will host Detroit Mercy on Tuesday. Chad Riley’s side will have one final chance to sharpen its form before opening ACC play against Clemson on Saturday.

“The important thing is how you grow from each game, even if you get a positive result,” Riley stated. “You want to put the results as part of that, but you really want to grow as much as you can in September.”

Notre Dame’s clash with the Titans is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Alumni Stadium. It will air on ACC Network Extra.

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About Tyler Reidy

Tyler is a sophomore who serves as an Associate Sports Editor at The Observer. Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, and Keough Hall, he enjoys road trips, all things collegiate athletics and Kansas City barbecue. Reach out here or @TylerJReidy on Twitter!

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