Sep 9, 2014, 9:47 PM EDT
A mere twelve hours after watching his team suffer its first loss of the season, and just its second since November of 2012, Bobby Clark leaned forward and smiled.
Over fifty combined years of playing and coaching on an elite level will do that to you. It’ll allow you to wake up after a loss and grin, to see the hidden good in each defeat, and to put even the most crushing of letdowns in perspective. It’s a time-honed talent, and one that Clark will surely utilize to effectively move his club forward after the Irish’s 1-0 loss to Kentucky on a goal in the last minute of stoppage time.
“Soccer is a funny game,” Clark said. “We didn’t play particularly well against Dartmouth, but we won 4-1. Against Kentucky, we played very well, possibly our best performance of the season so far. So our best performance of the season results in a loss. It doesn’t make sense.”
No. 4 Notre Dame was shut out for the second time this season, but it wasn’t for a lack of chances. The Irish outshot the Wildcats 18-5, including 10-1 in the second half.
“We obviously have got to tidy up and be better in the final third,” Clark said. “That’s not just with finishing, but also with final passes and crosses.”
Clark offered no excuses for allowing the late tally, saying the goal was simply a result of a short lapse of focus.
“At halftime, I put two words up on the board,” Clark said. “One was patience. I knew this was a team that would sit back and defend well, so we had to be patient and wait for opportunities to come. The other was concentration. It was just a lack of concentration that last thirty seconds, really. We were thinking about winning the game, but when they have the ball you still have to think about defending. We didn’t do that well enough at that moment in the game as a team.”
“The big thing is you’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to keep that attitude and that performance up. I think we will. You’ve got to look at it, learn from it, and put it behind you.”
The Irish will begin their ACC slate on Saturday with a trip to Syracuse, a former BIG EAST foe. It’ll be Notre Dame’s third trip to Syracuse in three years.
“I think the guys know it’ll be a challenge from our two previous visits,” Clark said. “We ended up winning nicely in the end, but both were tough games.”
The Orange will enter the match with a perfect 4-0 record, albeit against mediocre competition. Syracuse’s hot start has vaulted the club to No. 20 in the latest NSCAA Coaches poll.
“They’re flying,” Clark said. “They’ll be feeling very good about themselves.”
The tilt presents Notre Dame’s first true road challenge of the season, but don’t expect the largely veteran squad to be fazed.
“I think we like playing on the road,” Clark said. “We play many spring games and preseason exhibitions on the road on purpose to prepare the guys. We’re used to traveling and enjoy playing in hostile environments. I think we rise to that.”
Notre Dame will kick off against Syracuse at 7:00 PM on Saturday. The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN.
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