Oct. 10, 2004
The University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team (9-2-1, 5-1-0) dominated possession time and the statistical line to eventually defeat Syracuse (2-8-0, 0-4-0) 1-0 in double overtime Saturday afternoon. The victory provides Notre Dame with the program’s best-ever start to BIG EAST Conference competition. Sophomore Ian Etherington, who have the Orange packed-in defense fits all afternoon, won the game with a free kick goal at 102:41.
The Irish have begun the 2004 season with a solid 9-2-1 record, the team’s best since a 9-0-2 start in the 1988 season. Five victories in the first six BIG EAST games of the year is a first for the program as well, besting the 4-1-1 start in ’97. Notre Dame also is on a five-game win streak with all five of those victories registered as shutouts.
While the final score gives an impression of a close contest, Notre Dame dominated possession time for the entire game and ended up with 25 shots compared to just six for the Orange. In fact, Notre Dame out-shot the visitors 16-2 in the second half and two overtime periods.
Alim Karim was solid in goal for Syracuse, turning away several scoring opportunities for Notre Dame and posting seven saves in the contest. Irish keeper Chris Sawyer was asked to make just two routine saves – and batted away the lone dangerous attempt for Syracuse in the game. At 27:10 in the first half, Sawyer tipped a dangerous cross out of the box to himself, not allowing a Syracuse defender a chance for a point blank shot.
Sawyer has not allowed a goal in his last 465 minutes of action.
While the Notre Dame defense turned back some limited runs from Syracuse, the Orange defense played prevent during a majority of the game. The Irish did break through for several great scoring chances, however.
â€¢ At 25:00, sophomore Ryan Miller moved forward and found senior Luke Boughen cutting through the back of the Orange defensive line. A great cross ended up headed high over the goal.
â€¢ Thirty two minutes into the first half, senior Jack Stewart headed down a free kick attempt to the waiting foot of classmate Christopher High. High’s shot ended up getting blocked with the goalkeeper out of position.
â€¢ A great combination of passes set up Tony Megna 38 minutes into the game, when junior John Stephens passed forward to freshman Justin McGeeney. McGeeney found Megna behind the defense but Karim left his line to deflect the shot just wide.
â€¢ McGeeney ended up as the most active Irish attacker in the second half, posting two dangerous opportunities just one minute apart (at approximately 65 minutes). High made a great run through the defense to spark one opportunity and McGeeney created the second himself, which ended up deflected off the left post by Karim.
â€¢ Etherington played key role in almost ending the game at 92:00, finding a streaking Tony Megna with a great pass. Megna was one-on-one with Karim and got the ball past him, but his shot glanced off the opposite post – just inches wide.
Etherington’s game winner came after the second-year player from Temecula, Calif., made a great run into the left side of the Orange defense. He was eventually pulled down in the box – drawing a yellow card on Syracuse defender Jonathan Jones. The referee called the free kick just outside of the left-front corner of the penalty box. Etherington bounced his effort through the defense and found the right side of the net after Karim was frozen on his line by several Irish attackers running toward the net.
Notre Dame has assumed first place in the BIG EAST standings with its victory, ahead of St. John’s (4-1-1) and Boston College (4-3-0). The Irish will step out of conference play on Wednesday, Oct. 13, when it plays host to #19 Michigan in a rematch of the Wolverine’s victory over Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championship last season.