NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Following a week of practice and match action, the Notre Dame men's soccer team continues to take shape as it prepares for the upcoming campaign, which is just over a week away.
The top-ranked Fighting Irish held their first official practice Aug. 13 and after just five training sessions they traveled to Saint Louis to open exhibition play. Saturday's affair against the Billikens was stopped in the 61st minute due to lightning and the match ended as a scoreless draw.
Notre Dame then traveled to Peoria, Ill., to face Bradley on Tuesday. Two matches were held and the first was 60 minutes in length and both squads used a younger lineup. The Irish produced a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from freshman forward Jon Gallagher in the 53rd minute.
In the second match, Patrick Hodan put Notre Dame on top in the 14th minute with a converted penalty kick. Hodan finding the back of the net likely is a sign of things to come for the Fighting Irish this season. The junior midfielder is the squad's leading returning scorer after registering 11 goals and five assists in 2013. Those numbers only trailed Harrison Shipp for team-high honors.
The Braves leveled the match in the 78th minute, but Notre Dame's Connor Klekota scored 30 seconds later to give the lead back to the Irish. Leon Brown, a graduate student forward, and freshman Jeffrey Farina assisted on the tally. Bradley struck again in the 85th minute and the contest ended as a 2-2- tie.
Notre Dame returns an abundance of veterans, including 10 starters, from last season's national title-winning team, but Gallagher and Farina both have seen a good amount of time this preseason. The talented freshman forwards certainly are worth keeping an eye on as the year progresses.
After returning to campus Wednesday afternoon, the team took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (view video). The Irish were back on the practice field Thursday morning to continue preseason training.
Notre Dame will conclude its exhibition slate Monday with a home tilt against No. 21 Wisconsin. The match is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) at Alumni Stadium and it will serve as the program's annual contest to benefit Grassroot Soccer. Admission is $1 and further donations will be accepted throughout the match.
The regular season gets underway Aug. 29 against No. 12 Marquette at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic in Bloomington, Ind. Notre Dame will face No. 9 Georgetown Aug. 31 during the second and final day of the tournament.
Here are some thoughts from Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark on the first week of training and the exhibition games...
"We've had a look at everyone play because we've had the three games. It's been excellent. The only downside was the game in Saint Louis that was cut a little short. We changed the lineup at halftime of that game so we didn't get as long of a look with the second group. I felt those guys got cheated a little bit."
"There were big crowds at both the Saint Louis and Bradley games and they were difficult games to play. It was good to play in what I'd call `real games' which is when you're getting the other team's `A' game. That was especially true at Bradley because they made us do a lot of things we don't really like doing: handling direct play, handling long throw-ins, handling set pieces. A lot of their game comes from that so it was tremendous experience for our guys and I couldn't have asked for a better game."
"It was a good week for bonding. I feel the freshmen are now well integrated."
"This week has kept us quite humble because we still don't have a win (in a regulation game). But that's okay because we need to save the wins for when we need them. It shows you how hard it is to play at this level. There are no easy games."
"We're defending quite well. We didn't defend transition as well as we should have against Bradley so we have to improve defending transition."
"There was a carelessness to our passing at times, but it got better from the Saint Louis game to the Bradley game and there still is a lot of room for improvement in that department."
A nice afternoon away from training was had at the lake! Huge thanks to the Cicciarellis for their hospitality! pic.twitter.com/9r5EtfqQZo— ND Men's Soccer (@NDMenSoccer) August 18, 2014
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director