The schedule that the Syracuse Orange get assigned each year from the ACC has a few dates that you always circle. First is whatever day that the Clemson Tigers show up. The matches are always great and it’s damn fine soccer. One of the next games that fits in that category is the showdown with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Since the ACC runs an unbalanced schedule, the Orange and Irish didn’t meet up last season, but they did every year from 2012-2016. In 2012, it was an Irish win in the Big East Tournament, then the inaugural ACC contests, which Notre Dame took both of. In 2015, the Orange finally got the best of the Irish, winning 1-0 in the ACC Championship game, with former standout, and apparently current “student assistant coach,” Ben Polk, netting the winner. In South Bend in 2016, Notre Dame again got the best of the Orange on a last minute 2-1 victory. Overall the series is 2-13-3, which isn’t a good look for Syracuse, but Notre Dame has been better for a lot longer than the Orange in this whole soccer thing.
The Fighting Irish seem to be getting on well under new head coach Chad Riley. Riley took over for college soccer stalwart and former Scottish international Bobby Clark. He’s definitely familiar with the Orange, as his former squad at Dartmouth made the trip to Syracuse from New Hampshire in both 2015 and 2016, Syracuse emerging victorious on both occasions.
On the pitch, the Irish attack has been all set pieces and aerial balls this season, with senior captain Patrick Berneski accounting for three of the six Irish goals on the year. Berneski happens to also be a center back. Not particularly your standard goal scoring output, especially since he only scored three throughout the rest of his career. Another of the goals was also from an aerial ball, leaving only two struck balls from open play.
For the Orange to pose a threat, they’ll need to be clinical in the chances they take, which hasn’t been a strong suit. The Irish defense has only conceded a single goal on the season, strangely, to the only unranked opponent that they’ve faced, in the St. Louis Billikens. They’ve shut out potent attacks from the No. 18 Dartmouth Big Green and the No. 22 Connecticut Huskies.
Senan Farrelly and Patrick Berneski are the heart of the UND defense at center back. The pairing seems to be mobile and get some cover from the defensive midfielders sinking and recovering quickly. Both sides, the fullbacks can pick a cross, be it Sean Dedrick, the right back or Felician Dumas, the left back who led the team in assists last season and already has three on the year. He’s also their set piece taker, so there’s that.
The Irish defense is very disciplined, including the midfielders tracking back, but they do seem to give up space on the wings, which freshman Ryan Raposo can definitely exploit. He’s solid running on down the wing, and with pace, could pull one of the defenders out of position, giving Buchanan some space to exploit. Dedrick looks to stay a bit at home compared to his counterpart, so it could be a matter of Severin Soirle being the one to find that pocket behind the defense, or more likely by style of play, freshman Hilli Goldhar. The pacy young winger is more of a traditional wide forward, where Soirle or Buchanan seem to pull inside naturally when they’re in the area.
The Orange welcome the Irish to SU Soccer Stadium at 7 p.m. ET on Friday. The match will also be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra for anyone not in the area.