Bobby Clark’s remarkable soccer resume includes a winner’s medal from each of Scotland’s major competitions, 17 international caps for his country and countless conference prizes as a head coach in the American college soccer scene.
The former Aberdeen and Scotland goalkeeper added a United States national title to the list Sunday as his Notre Dame side defeated Maryland by 2-1 in the NCAA College Cup Final at the Philadelphia Union’s PPL Park.
Goals from substitute Leon Brown and central defender Andrew O’Malley led Clark’s Fighting Irish to the school’s first national championship and prevented Sasho Cirovski from guiding Maryland to a third title in nine years.
Notre Dame has qualified for the NCAA tournament in 12 of Clark’s 13 seasons at the helm since the Scot joined the program in 2001. The Irish had previously been unable to progress beyond the quarter-final.
The third seeds suffered an early blow on 10 minutes when Vince Cicciarelli suffered a suspected broken collar bone after clattering to the turf. Senior Brown replaced the burly forward.
The third seeds enjoyed greater fortune on 35 minutes despite falling behind to Patrick Mullins’ 19th goal of the season for Maryland. Alex Shinsky’s initial effort following a corner kick was clearly stopped on the line by Patrick Hodan’s left arm. Referee Hilario Grajeda allowed play to continue.
Mullins, the reigning Player of the Year in college soccer, controlled the loose ball 10 yards out under pressure from four Irish defenders before rifling his left-foot shot high into goalkeeper Patrick Wall’s top right corner. Maryland had the lead while Notre Dame kept its full complement of 11 players.
Former Notre Dame defender Matt Besler is renowned for his long throws for Major League Soccer’s recently crowd champions Sporting Kansas City. Besler’s younger brother Nick, a junior midfielder for the Irish, played a different role off a similar set piece that leveled the score five minutes before half-time.
Besler flicked Luke Mishu’s throw toward the 6-yard box where Brown rolled his marker Chris Odoi-Atsem before slotting his shot under Maryland goalkeeper Zack Steffen from a tight angle.
College Cup finals often turn into an attritional slog after the two protagonists emerge from semi-finals played less than 48 hours earlier. This proved to be another such occasion with star players Mullins and Harrison Shipp struggling to influence the game. Shipp did manage to deliver the cross that led to Notre Dame’s game winner on the hour mark.
The Chicago Fire Academy product whipped in a wicked inswinging free kick from the left side that saw O’Malley escape the attentions of Shinsky before placing his header inside Steffen’s left post from seven yards out.
Notre Dame survived a second contentious handball decision on 67 minutes when Grajeda ignored another seemingly clear offense by Connor Klekota. That sparked a brief spell of pressure from the Terrapins although Wall remained largely untroubled in the Irish goal.
Brown almost engineered a chance to close the game out with nine minutes remaining after a rare flowing move involving Shipp and Evan Panken. The forward failed to control the ball on the run as he approached Maryland’s penalty box.
Notre Dame’s head coach Clark had lost out in two previous national championship games on American soil. The first defeat came in July 1967 when Aberdeen played under the guise of the Washington Whips in the inaugural United Soccer Association league. The Los Angeles Wolves, represented by England’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, eventually won a classic battle at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by 6-5 after six minutes of sudden-death overtime.
Stanford reached the 1998 College Cup Final under Clark’s guidance with his youngest son Jamie playing a prominent role on the field. Indiana won that year’s title with a 3-1 win over the Cardinal.
Dec. 15, 2013 — Clark And Cirovski’s Journey From Pittodrie To PPL Park
Dec. 13, 2013 — Clark Steers Notre Dame To First College Cup Final
Nov. 24, 2013 — Clarks On Collision Course In NCAA College Cup
May 24, 2013 — The U.S. President With A Soccer Season Ticket
Jan. 21, 2013 — Fighting Irish Duo Credit Clark For MLS Draft Success