Junior Robby Gallegos is a candidate to start in the central midfield.

Irish Insights: Team Taking Shape Heading Into Season Opener

Aug 27, 2013

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Following six-and-a-half hours of preseason game action and several more spent on the practice field, Notre Dame men’s soccer head coach Bobby Clark likes where the team stands heading into Friday’s regular-season opener against No. 9 UCLA at the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic.

The seventh-ranked Fighting Irish defeated Ohio State, 1-0, last night at Alumni Stadium to conclude exhibition play with a 2-1 mark. The Irish opened the preseason with a 1-0 setback at No. 6 Creighton before posting a 2-0 victory at Drake. The team also played shorter matches, which featured the squad’s younger players, against Creighton and Drake.

“I think we are well prepared,” Clark said. “The first two (preseason) games were great because we got a lot of people in by playing a two-game format, which allowed us to have a 60-minute game and a 90-minute game. Last night we played the first group for 60 minutes because we wanted to make sure everyone was suitably rested for the games on Friday and Sunday (vs. SMU) this weekend down in Bloomington.

“We also were able to get a look at some of the younger guys. We put them in the second half against Ohio State, which was chasing to try and get back into the game. It was a good test that they had to play in a game where they were playing against a higher-caliber team that was trying to get a result out of it.

“We got a good look of who we think can help us from the freshman class. That’s why I like having three scrimmages because it gives us that opportunity to see the freshmen. But, things can change because it’s an ongoing process. What we might think today could change because of how they practice, for good or bad. Like I said to the team last night `You could look like a lock right now but if you don’t continue to play well somebody else can come up and catch you and vice versa’.”

The Irish will be looking for consistency on the offensive end of the pitch since they have to replace 31 of their 52 goals scored from last season. A good sign from the preseason is that a different player tallied all three of the team’s goals. Juniors Vince Cicciarelli, a forward, and Max Lachowecki, a left back, tallied goals in the Drake contest, while senior forward Alex Priede scored last night against the Buckeyes.

The senior trio of Harrison Shipp, Leon Brown and Priede brings a tremendous amount of experience to the attack unit, but Cicciarelli has been hampered by injuries during his Irish career. However, he is someone to keep an eye on this season.

“This is the first time we’ve really seen Vince Cicciarelli,” Clark said. “He is starting to feel much more comfortable. He’s really been dogged with injuries up until now. A torn ACL really put him out of the picture last year and he really worked hard over the summer.”

One of the last question marks entering the season is in the central midfield. Clark and his staff are still deciding whom to pair with junior Nick Besler, but the Irish head coach likes his options.

“I thought both Robby Gallegos and Connor Klekota did a really good job (in the preseason) and showed they have the potential to fill that slot.”

There was no admission to last night’s game versus Ohio State, but donations for Grassroot Soccer (GRS) were taken during the match. GRS is an international organization that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire and mobilize communities against the spread of HIV/AIDS across the globe and specifically in Africa. Clark’s eldest son, Tommy, is the founder and CEO of Grassroot Soccer and he attended Monday night’s match.

This was the 10th season that the Notre Dame men’s soccer team held an exhibition match for GRS. Nearly $2,000 was raised last night and further donations are being accepted online (click here to donate).

“It’s always good to be able to raise money for Grassroot Soccer, which is such a good cause,” Bobby Clark said. “I want to thank everyone who donated and I also want to thank the Notre Dame men’s basketball team, which helped gather donations for us at the game. That was a very nice thing for them to do.”

— Sean Carroll