In its final preseason tune-up, No. 3 Notre Dame played to a scoreless draw with No. 16 Illinois-Chicago Monday night at Alumni Field in front of 2,053 fans.
Despite the similarity of the box score, the game was a tale of two halves for the Irish. In the first forty-five minutes, the majority of the best chances went to the Flames. Only some great saves by Notre Dame keeper Andrew Quinn and a little help from the woodwork prevented Illinois-Chicago from taking the lead.
Quinn's best save came in the 35th minute when he made a diving stop off a snap header from the Flames forward Phillip Mitchell. Earlier in the half, Quinn was beaten to his near post, but Charlie Trout's low drive rebounded back off the post.
"The lads were in meetings and sessions all day long, and I thought it looked like we had been in sessions all day long during the first half," Irish coach Bobby Clark said. "I thought in the first half we played a lot of patches without penetrating."
Clark made some half-time adjustments that put Notre Dame on the offensive in the second half. The wide midfielders started to press higher up the field and attack more often to put the pressure on Illinois-Chicago's defense. The result was an Irish onslaught that resulted in everything but the winning goal. Notre Dame outshot Illinois-Chicago 8-2 and held a 5-1 advantage in corners for the second forty-five minutes.
The best chance came late in the game when freshman Brendan King played a neat one-two with sophomore Jeb Brovsky. Brovsky's flick put King one-on-one with Flames' goalie Johan Buboja, but King's effort rebounded off the same post that had denied Trout earlier in the game.
Clark said King and fellow outside midfielder Josh Thiermann provided a much-needed spark to the Irish attack in the final half.
"They had the benefit of talking about it at halftime - getting higher up and making things happen," Clark said. "They took it to heart. They brought energy and they got forward. They made good things happen."
Both King and Thiermann came on at halftime as substitutes. Clark used last night's contest as an opportunity to give many players a shot as Notre Dame tries to pin down its rotation before the regular season and conference play begin.
"We played nineteen players last night, and that's quite a lot to get into a game," Clark said. "We're trying to find out what we've got. The sooner the better, but it's starting to shape up."
Last night's game served as a fundraiser for Grassroots Soccer - an AIDS awareness and education organization that reaches youths through soccer clinics. Money was raised through the one dollar admission price as well as additional donations. All proceeds will be matched by a Notre Dame alumnus that wishes to remain anonymous.