Sept. 11, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Efficient is an understatement when talking about the recent play of Notre Dame senior forward Leon Brown. Brown scored three goals in a span of 52:42 that stretched portions of the SMU and North Carolina matches.
Brown entered the campaign with two career goals and he equaled that mark in the opening 20 minutes of the SMU match, Notre Dame's second game of the season. He put the Irish up in the 1-0 less than five minutes into the contest and then pushed the lead to two in the 20th minute and Notre Dame went on to post a 2-1 victory and win the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic title.
On Sunday, Notre Dame fell behind No. 1 North Carolina, 1-0, in the 18th minute and the Tar Heels held the lead going into halftime. Brown checked into the match at the beginning of the second half and was an integral part of the team's increased offensive pressure. The Irish finally broke through in the 79th minute when Harrison Shipp played the ball to his classmate inside the box and Brown hammered home the equalizer in an eventual 1-1 draw.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot of confidence right now," Brown said. "Scoring goals, especially for a forward, is how you gain confidence. I'm looking to keep that going into the next game, which should benefit the team and hopefully we get some wins."
A major question for the Fighting Irish heading into the season was who would pick up the slack at the forward position for departed first team All-American Ryan Finley, who tallied 21 goals last season. It would be unfair to expect any one player to duplicate that success, but so far Brown has emerged as a threat for the Irish in the final third of the pitch.
"We've never doubted Leon's ability," Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. "All week (heading into the North Carolina game) he was playing with terrific confidence. I think a lot of that came from getting the two goals against SMU. Nobody doubts Leon's ability. He can be a terrific player for us this year."
While the bright side for the Irish, who are off to a 1-0-2 start, is that Brown has three goals in the first three matches of the season, the downside is that those are the only three scores for the team. Notre Dame shouldn't have been expected to produce a lot of goals given its stiff early-season competition, which included a season-opening scoreless draw with UCLA. However, the squad has been frustrated at times because the opportunities have been there.
The Fighting Irish have outshot their opponents 59-31, including an 18-13 margin in shots on goal. Notre Dame has had at least a +9 shot margin in all three matches this season. The Irish also have doubled up their opponents in corner kick attempts (24-12).
"You always feel these things will level out over the season," Clark said. "As long as we just keep working at it I think the goals will come. The most important thing is that we're creating opportunities and that's very important. We've played three very good teams and it's incredible how competitive men's soccer is. You look across the country and there are some interesting results. There are no easy games. We just have to keep getting better every game and that's our challenge."
The Irish hope their goal-scoring karma revisits them during Friday's match at Syracuse. Last season, the two teams met at Syracuse in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship and the Irish came away with a 4-2 victory. After falling behind 2-0 in the 49th minute, Notre Dame rattled off four goals in the final 28 minutes of the match en route to the win.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director