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Weekly Recap: From Detroit to Mexico

Mar 29, 2013, 4:05 PM EDT

Following their spring break excursion across the border to Canada, the Notre Dame men’s soccer squad trekked up to Detroit last Saturday for games against Michigan and Oakland.

Both games were seventy minutes in length, and skipper Bobby Clark split the Irish into two nearly even teams.

“I possibly put a few more experienced players in the game against Michigan, but I split it pretty well up the middle,” Clark said. “Everybody played at least seventy minutes.”

The Wolverines were on the front end of the doubleheader. Though the Irish topped their rivals, 1-0, Clark was not altogether thrilled with his group’s performance.

“I thought we were sloppy with the ball and we didn’t connect passes the way I’d like us to,” Clark said.
“That was the disappointing thing. We didn’t create as many chances as I would’ve liked. But I think the guys knew that coming off. I don’t think any of them were satisfied.”

Clark did glean a few positives from the Michigan game, however.

“I thought we had pretty good shape defensively and we didn’t give up many chances,” Clark said. “I also thought Vince Cicciarelli did a lot of good things.”

The second team put on a more complete performance against Oakland, winning by a tally of 2-1.

“I thought we handled Oakland better,” Clark said. “A couple of nice goals came out of that one.”

None was more special than the one by junior striker Harry Shipp, and its uniqueness derives not from the goal itself but from the player credited with the assist: Harry’s brother, Michael. The freshman defender played a beautiful ball through to his brother, who easily snuck it past the Oakland keeper to complete the first Shipp to Shipp scoring connection of their Notre Dame careers.

As always, Clark was optimistic about the day’s games, opting to look their place in the big picture of things as the Irish gear up for next season.

“The results aren’t the most important thing in the spring,” Clark said. “We’re building a base. So these games are like the first steps on the ladder to see who we’re going to be next year. Performances will have to get better if we’re going to become a serious contender. But we’ll be playing every weekend when we come back from Easter, so we’ll get right back at it.”

For one night this past week, though, Clark’s mind was far removed from devising training methods for his team here in frigid South Bend. On Tuesday night, the United States squared off against Mexico in a World Cup qualifying match at legendary Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. Starting and playing the whole game for the Americans was Matt Besler (’09). It marked the first time that a former member of the Notre Dame men’s soccer team actually played in a World Cup qualifier. Besler and Justin Morrow (’10) suited up for the United States in a January tilt with Canada, but the game was merely a friendly.

“There was a lot at stake in last night’s game,” Clark said. “For the U.S., it doesn’t get much bigger than playing in the Azteca in front of over 100,000 people in a World Cup qualifier. To see Matt walking out and standing there during the national anthem was certainly special for me. And he played very well.”

Besler was a pre-med student who graduated in three and a half years from Notre Dame. He was named both first team All-American and first team Academic All American his senior year and was chosen as the 2008 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Besler, a Kansas City native, was chosen in the first round of the MLS Draft by his hometown team, Sporting Kansas City. He was named to the 2011 MLS All-Star team and was the 2012 MLS Defensive Player of the Year. Matt’s brother Nick, a sophomore, was a major contributor to the Irish last year, starting all 22 games as a center midfielder.

Nick and his teammates will take Easter weekend off before hosting Western Michigan and Valparaiso the following weekend.

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