It was a hard fought, ground out, well-deserved win for the Louisville men's soccer team against No. 11 Notre Dame from a packed Lynn Stadium on Friday night. U of L came into the game looking to maintain their perfect conference record on the year, and put in a physical, if not sometimes dodged, shift against the attack-minded Irish.
The game’s kickoff found both sides feeling each other out, with the first shot not coming until the ninth minute, which was a good opportunity for Notre Dame off of a free kick, but was squandered when Jon Gallager failed to make solid contact from point-blank range.
The game continued to plug along with the Irish getting the majority of the next 10 minutes of possession in the Cardinals’ defensive third. Notre Dame was looking only moderately dangerous on the ball, and the back four for the Cards was more than up for the task.
It was in the 25th minute when the Cards dispossessed the Irish, and made a quick counter- launched by Joey Kunkel in defense. Kunkel’s ball found the foot of Mohamed Thiaw, who was about 40 yards from goal when he looked up and saw goalkeeper (and Trinity grad) Chris Hubbard off his line. Thiaw uncorked a looping sidefooted shot that left Hubbard scrambling back to his net. He would be too far away however and the effort just barely crept under the crossbar to send Lynn into a frenzy and the Cards into an unexpected lead.
The Cards closed out the remainder of the half strong and whether by hook or by crook, kept the visiting Irish at bay. They did commit five fouls in the remaining 10 minutes, but no disciplinary action came of it.
If the story from the first half was about the undeniable goal of the season, the story of the second half was the great defense. Notre Dame came out knowing they had to get a goal, and the Louisville defense time and time again kept putting out the proverbial fires. Clearing balls, boxing out attackers, winning challenges, the determined D is what kept the game level. Midfielders lent a much needed hand in the back when things started coming to a boil and the Irish started growing desperate.
As the game started reaching the final stages, Notre Dame really turned up the wick. They did not get very many legitimate shots on goal, thanks a lot to the aforementioned defense, but just as it looked like U of L was going to walk away with the win, Notre Dame substitute Thomas Ueland came up with a powerful shot from just outside the box that took all of Stefan Cleveland’s 6-foot-2-inch frame to save.
In the end, that shot in the 87th minute would be the last threat to the Cards’ goal, as they cleared everything that came within a country mile of the box. As the time hit the 89:50 mark, all of the 4,043 on hand at Lynn could be heard counting down the seconds to one of U of L’s best conference win in their brief ACC history.
The Cards only got two shots on target the whole night, but as we have seen in this sport, it only takes the one to win.
U of L has a break from their conference schedule when they travel to Saint Louis University on Tuesday night to face the Billikens. They host Virginia next Saturday at 7:00p.m.