Clark Steers Notre Dame To First College Cup Final

Written by Ian Thomson

CHESTER, Pa. – Former Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeper Bobby Clark stands one game away from lifting his first NCAA College Cup after Notre Dame beat New Mexico by 2-0 in Friday’s semi-final at the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park.

Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark (Photo: Ian Thomson)
Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark (Photo: Ian Thomson)

A goal in each half from sophomore Patrick Hodan fired Clark’s No. 3 ranked Fighting Irish past the No. 25 Lobos to reach the school’s first national championship game in its first appearance at the College Cup.

Sunday’s showdown against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland marks Clark’s second visit to the title decider. His Stanford side lost 3-1 to Indiana in the 1998 College Cup Final.

New Mexico had scuppered the potential for a father-and-son semi-final showdown last Saturday by beating Jamie Clark’s No. 2 ranked Washington 1-0 in Seattle.

The younger Clark had served as Lobos head coach Jeremy Fishbein’s assistant during the program’s run to the 2005 College Cup final and an eventual 1-0 loss to Maryland. Fishbein’s hopes of gaining revenge against the Terrapins ended meekly as Notre Dame controlled a game played in freezing temperatures.

Hodan put the Irish ahead on seven minutes after Chicago Fire Academy product Harry Shipp took control of an errant pass on the halfway line and advanced toward the Lobos penalty area. Shipp held off the attentions of Lobos midfielder Michael Calderon before slipping a delightful pass behind left-back Mathew Gibbons. Hodan dragged the ball across the penalty area before sliding his shot past goalkeeper Michael Lisch.

The return of Nick Besler alongside Connor Klekota in the center of the Irish midfield solidified Notre Dame’s defense and restricted New Mexico to shots from outside the box. Goalkeeper Patrick Wall was called upon on four occasions during the first half without being stretched.

A flowing move down the left side led to Hodan’s decisive second goal. Shipp was at the heart of the attack again, picking the precise moment to free Evan Panken on the overlap. Hodan headed home a loose ball from six yards after striker Vince Cicciarelli had initially thumped Panken’s cross against the bar.

Virginia had rallied from a two-goal deficit to oust Notre Dame from last month’s ACC Tournament at the semi-final stage after the Irish shared the regular-season title with Maryland. New Mexico’s resistance proved to be far weaker.