Notre Dame keeps bragging rights,
takes down St. Patrick
Freddy Krug notches 14th goal in Irish Cup win
By Michael Wojtychiw
CHICAGO - The Irish Cup is staying in Niles.
For the second time in just under six months, Notre Dame and St. Patrick faced off in their annual rivalry match. Just like their March 24 match, the Dons came home victorious.
That game, a 3-1 Notre Dame win, had quite a different feel than Thursday evening's matchup at Read-Dunning Field.
The Dons, listed in Chicagoland Soccer's honorable mention section of the most recent rankings, came into the match enjoying the best start in school history.They have outscored their opponents 48-4 through 10 games.
That best start continued as Notre Dame (10-1-0, 3-0-0 East Suburban Catholic) came away with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
"We're not only on pace to break records we've set for the program, but we're on pace to shatter them," Notre Dame manager Mike Smith said. "I think building the program is a big thing. If I look at the spring, they (St. Patrick) came in as a little bit of the favorites, and we flew under the radar.
"This year we came in on the flip of that. For our guys, they felt the rivalry really fresh. For the first 10 minutes we just had to weather the storm, play into the game. Once we got that, we started to play our brand we want to show on the field.
"These type of games, you throw out the stats, throw out the records. You just have to go out there and win."
Early on, however, it looked like it would be the host Shamrocks (4-6-0, 2-1-0) who would be the first to score a goal. They came out the aggressor in the match's first 10-15 minutes.
St. Patrick put three shots on Notre Dame goalie Luca LoBianco and earned two free kicks in the match's first 10 minutes, all before the Dons could really get adjusted.
"I told the guys at the end, I thought this was the hardest we've played all season," St. Patrick manager Kyle McClure said. "We fought; we went down a guy and kept fighting. We kept our composure, had a few good chances. I told the guys this was a playoff atmosphere game, and this is going to get us ready for that time.
"For the first 15 minutes, I thought we really outplayed them, but didn't put the ball in the back of the net. We've seen that in a lot of our games. We get off to good starts but just don't have that final push or aggressiveness to put the goal in."
"Our coach kind of told us before the game they were going to come out pressuring, because it's a big game for everyone," LoBianco said. "I was nervous to start. Once the first couple minutes went by, I felt fine because I've got three of my best friends, the best defensive line I've played with and have absolute confidence in."
From the 29th minute until the halftime mark on, Notre Dame reversed roles and put pressure on the Shamrocks, forcing St. Patrick keeper Bryant Alvarez to make six saves. The Dons also earning five free kicks and two corners in that stretch.
"I think maybe we could have been a little more mentally ready for the game," Notre Dame's Freddy Krug said. "We knew it was a big game and no matter what our record was, we knew this was going to be big. Rivalry, trophy on the line, so I think we were a little nervous."
As indicated by the competitive match, St. Patrick has turned its season around. After starting 0-4-0, the squad had won four of its last five coming into its matchup with Notre Dame.
A big reason for that was the return of Alvarez, the team's starting keeper, after a hand injury.
Alvarez said he isn't fully healed and wore a soft cast on his hand after the game, but it's feeling better every day.
"The first four games he was out with an injury, but since he returned, we've been playing better and you saw why today," McClure said. "He made a few outstanding saves., He's back and playing outstanding."
"With the score still 0-0, we had chances. We had the support from everybody," Alvarez said. "The goalie is the hardest position ever. If I mess up, I let the whole team down. I could be the hero this game, the villain the next, but you always have to keep your head up, always have your team with their heads up. Because in this sport, you never know what can happen."
Alvarez, who wasn't sure whether he'd be able to play in the game because of an interview to become an Evans Scholar, got right back to work after the half. The Dons put two shots on frame in the half's first three minutes.
The match, which was chippy to say the least, took a turn in the 46th minute, when Shamrocks defender Rafael Ramirez was sent off on a red card. That forced St. Patrick to play down a man for the final 33 minutes, 29 seconds of the half.
When play resumed, Alvarez was up to the task again. He made not one, but two saves on the ensuing free kick.
A foul nearly six minutes later in the box earned the Dons a penalty kick by senior midfielder Andres Barrezueta. Alvarez saved the attempt, but the referee called the keeper off his line, giving the senior midfielder another opportunity.
Alvarez saved that try as well.
"There's a lot of emotions going through your mind," he said. "It's 12 yards away from the goal, it's a lot of pressure.
"Usually, I think it's something like a 70-75 percent time of being in goal. I made the first save, and then I'm confident, I'm chill. But the ref said my feet were not on the line, but in the end, you have to look at the strikers, have to play mind games.
"If you get them nervous...you just have to keep your composure. I can make a million saves, but if I miss one, that's the one people will look at and remember."
For as well as Alvarez played, his counterpart kept Notre Dame in the game by pushing away any opportunity from St. Patrick.
The junior keeper made three key saves down the stretch to keep the shutout intact.
"This was one of his best games on the year," Smith said. "They (St. Patrick) had some chances, had some free kicks. Bbut I always felt comfortable because I felt our defense was playing so well and thought our keeper commanded the box excellent.
"He's been terrific all year. He's been on the varsity team since his freshman year, started last year as a sophomore and now again as a junior. I think having the experience as a backup as a freshman to this year, training with the guys to now taking over as our guy, he's been awesome."
Less than a minute-and-a-half after the failed penalty kick(s), the Dons got on the board when sophomore forward Krug scored his 14th goal of the season off a pass from Ryan Shanahan.
"I wanted to make the best of my chances," Krug said. "Earlier on in the game I missed a few, and I knew if I wanted to change the game and give us the momentum to win the game, I was going to have to put one in."
The Dons offense has been great so far this season. Their strong defense not only keeps them in games but also to prevent any scares.
The backliners have helped the goalkeepers record eight shutouts. The team started the season with a streak of six-straight clean-sheets.
"Our centerback, Paul Harris, has been tremendous all year and a leader on the backline," Smith said. "I think having a senior leader in the middle of them is great, he's the anchor of the defense.
"On the left of him Martin Krug, in my opinion, is the best sophomore defensive player in the state. Jack Plovanich on the right side is starting for the first time.
"Those guys have been awesome. St. Pat's always has kids who have lots of skill, can shoot, are really athletic. We knew we had to step up and put forward a solid defensive effort, and they did that tonight."
"Playing together constantly, it gives us great synergy on the backline, LoBianco said. "We're constantly communicating and know how to play around each other.
Both teams head into the thick of the conference race now with their eyes on the prize: a conference title.
"We've gotten better as the season has gone along and want to peak at the end of the season," Shamrocks manager McClure said. "We're on track for that."
Notre Dame wants to maintain its status quo.
"We just have to keep looking forward, one game at a time," LoBianco said.
GK: Luca LoBianco
D: Paul Harris
D: Martin Krug
D: Jack Plovanich
MF: Zach Martin
MF: Andres Barrezueta
MF: Daniel Deano
MF: Michael Ziemba
M: Michael Shanahan
F: Trevor Johnson
F: Freddy Krug
GK: Bryant Alvarez
D: Gael Quinonez
D: Xavier Gamez
D: Nicholas Leon
D: Rafael Ramirez
MF: Ben Elvira
MF: Conor Day
MF: Ivan Guerrero
MF: Rafael Rios
MF: Jorge Parra
F: Sergio Barron
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Luca LoBianco, jr., GK, Notre Dame; Bryant Alvarez, sr., GK, St. Patrick
Notre Dame: Freddy Krug (Ryan Shanahan), 25:57 remaining