The top-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s soccer team opened its season with a 2-1 win over No. 12 Marquette on Friday evening during the first day of the adidas/IU Credit Union Classic at a hot and muggy Bill Armstrong Stadium.
The Fighting Irish fell behind in the ninth minute, but responded with goals from Connor Klekota (28’) and Leon Brown (66’) to secure the win in their first match since winning the national title in December.
The first chance of the contest came in the fifth minute when Notre Dame midfielder Nick Besler sent a header on frame from six yards out that Marquette goalkeeper Charlie Lyon saved. Lyon also stopped a long-distance free kick from Klekota minutes later.
Marquette went up 1-0 in the ninth minute on its first shot of the match. David Selvaggi played the ball over the top to C. Nortey who scored from 12 yards out.
Klekota tallied the equalizer in the 28th minute when he cut around his defender on the right side of the 18-yard box and drilled his low shot inside the near post. It was the second career goal for the junior central midfielder. Klekota threatened again in the 35th minute as he sent a shot to the near post, but a diving Lyon negated the chance.
“We gave them (Marquette) a nice present early on,” Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark said. “It was a good wake-up call because I felt we played well after that for the rest of the half. We definitely deserved to go in level (at halftime) and I thought we maybe deserved a little more out of the half.
“I thought the opening 10 or 15 minutes of the second half was possibly their (Marquette) best period of the game.”
Both teams put shots on goal in the 54th minute. Brown, a fifth-year senior, had a close attempt saved by Lyon and on the other end of the pitch Irish goalie Patrick Wall made a leaping save on a shot from Selvaggi.
Brown’s next opportunity came in the 66th minute and he buried it. Right back Luke Mishu sent a nice cross to Brown, who deposited the eighth goal of his career.
“(Luke) Mishu ended up getting some space down the sideline, which we thought was pretty open and I sucked the defender in down low, peeled back and I was able to get a good finish at the back post,” Brown said. “It was a great cross from Mishu.
“It definitely felt good to score. As a forward you want to score and it was good to get it (first goal of the season) in the first game and I hope to keep it going.”
The Irish had a couple chances late in the match to salt it away. Central defender Andrew O’Malley placed a header off the crossbar in the 80th minute and freshman forward Jeffrey Farina sent a shot just wide of the far post in the 88th minute. Wall’s second and final save of the night came in the 89th minute to negate Marquette’s last threat.
“I felt we should have been more comfortable at the end of the game,” Clark said. “We had several very, very good chances to ice it. But both goals we did score were good goals. The second goal was great because coach (BJ) Craig talked about it at halftime. He said that when we get to the byline we need to cut it back to that pocket and that is exactly where Leon (Brown) was.”
The Irish outshot the Golden Eagles 17-11 (6-3 SOG). Notre Dame doubled-up Marquette in corner kicks, 6-3. Lyon finished with four saves.
Notre Dame will take on No. 9 Georgetown at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium during the second and final day of the tournament. The Fighting Irish have won the last two IU Classics.
(Story from Notre Dame's Men's Soccer)