Apr 26, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
Guillermo Martinez watched as the ball nestled into the back corner of the net and waved his index finger in the air, urging on the deafening roar of the sellout crowd at Alumni Stadium. The star striker had just tied the contest at two on a freak goal, and it seemed as if his squad had finally gotten the spark it needed.
But as he did multiple times during Notre Dame’s run to the national championship last season, Patrick Hodan responded with a late, game-winning tally. In the 85th minute, Hodan gathered a pass from Evan Panken at the top of the box and sent a winding shot just inside the left post to give Notre Dame a 3-2 win over Mexico’s U-20 national team on Friday night.
Notre Dame’s annual tilt with Mexico’s U-20’s is typically the team’s marquee spring game, and this year’s edition of the matchup was no different. A sellout crowd of 3,007 was announced at the stadium, but actual ticket sales hovered over 4,000.
The first half was largely dominated by Notre Dame. The Irish got on the board first with a goal off of a set piece. Hodan sent a beautiful free kick into the box and freshman defender Matt Habrowski sent it past Mexico’s goalie with a strong header.
Mexico equalized minutes into the second half when forward Alejandro Diaz knocked a loose ball past Irish goalkeeper Patrick Wall from point blank range. The visitors continued to heavily control the pace and tempo in the second half until Notre Dame’s Vince Cicciarelli muscled his way through three defenders and scored in the 72nd minute.
Not even two minutes later, a deflected Notre Dame clearance sent the ball right to feet of Martinez, who found himself behind the defense and calmly beat Wall. Both teams traded failed opportunities until Hodan put the Irish ahead for good.
The game was a physical one; Mexico committed a whopping 17 fouls to 8 for Notre Dame, and the two squads engaged in a short shoving match in stoppage time.
The match concluded Notre Dame’s spring schedule. The Irish will not return to game action until late August, when they typically play three exhibition matches before beginning the regular season.
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