SOCCER, SPORTS

Bobby Clark leads Notre Dame to first men’s soccer title

December 17, 2013

You’d think after winning the national championship, your wife might cut you a little slack. That wasn’t the case for Notre Dame men’s soccer head coach Bobby Clark.

“I got home and she told me, ‘It’s about time,’” Clark told former NCAA legends John Harkes and Tony Meola on SiriusXM FC’s Counter Attack on Monday. “When you have a Scottish wife, it helps, so [that] my head doesn’t get too big.”

It was a season of firsts for Notre Dame: Their first season playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference — the won a share of the regular season title, —  their first-ever trip to the College Cup — soccer’s version of the Final Four, — and their first NCAA Division I men’s soccer championship, a 2-1 win over Maryland at PPL Park.

“To actually win a trophy, winning a national championship, is something tangible,” Clark said. “Ray Reid [UConn’s head coach] summed it up when he said you’re not any better a coach but you start to breathe in rarefied air.”

Clark actually coached the youth team at the same club as Sir Alex Ferguson when the legendary Scotsman was at Aberdeen.

I did get a text from Sir Alex before the game. I told the team that an old coach of mine that’s won a few trophies said his advice was, ‘Play the game, not the occasion.’

(Talk about a pep talk.)

After falling behind 1-0 early, Notre Dame senior forward Leon Brown shifted the momentum. Off a long throw-in and subsequent flick by Nick Besler — whose brother won the MLS Cup a week before — Brown slid past an outstretched glove of Zack Steffen to knock home the equalizer.

In the second half, Notre Dame’s Harrison Shipp, a finalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy this season, curled in a free kick that found the head of another captain, defender Andrew O’Malley.

“The goal itself was really put up on a silver platter for me; it would have been really tough to screw it up, I suppose,” O’Malley said after the game.

The Irish continued to fight off a relentless Terrapins attack to the pleasure of their head coach.

We talk about it. Going into big games, there’s going to be periods that you’re playing a good team where you’re going to not have the ball and you just got to keep your belief in each other, keep belief in the system, and keep working, and not panic. If you panic you’re in trouble.

After the loss, Maryland head coach Sasho Cirovski showered Clark with respect but made sure to let the soccer world know his Terps would return.

They are worthy winners. I’m genuinely happy for Bobby, for all he’s done for college soccer, and I hope he enjoys this one. At Maryland, we shoot for the stars every year. We aim high. When you aim that high and you don’t reach, you still end up at the moon, which is higher than most people. To lose today to a great Notre Dame team is no disgrace, nor any shame. There’s heartache and disappointment in our locker room right now, but that will pass. In true Maryland fashion, we’ll be back.

As for when the two will talk next, continuing their close, personal relationship? Clark understood it will take a little time.

“I’ll give him until tomorrow.”

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