2017 Team Reviews

Notre Dame 2017 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School: University of Notre Dame 
Conference:  Atlantic Coast
Coach:  Bobby Clark - 17th Season 
2016 Record:  12-7-2 overall - 3-3-2 in conference
2016 Final Season Ending National Rank:  #14 by the NSCAA #14 - #16 by College Soccer News 
Key Losses from the 2016 Team:  Defenders Brandon Aubrey (9g, 1a) and Michael Shipp (0g, 1a), midfielders Evan Pankey (2g, 6a) and Oliver Harris (1g, 1a) and forward Mark Gormley (5g, 1a). 

Five Year Win Total:

2012:  17

2013:  17

2014:  12

2015:  11

2016:  12

2016 Goals Allowed and Goals Against: 36 goals scored - 18 goals allowed

Key 2016 Statistic: Notre Dame scored a total of twenty-nine goals in their first twelve contests and a total of seven goals in their last nine games.  

Background: Bobby Clark assumed the reigns of the Notre Dame program in 2001. During his sixteen years to date in South Bend the Irish have risen in prominence and are now annually a fixture in the national rankings.

Notre Dame competed in the Big East Conference prior to moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013. Notre Dame's resume includes Big East regular season titles in 2004, 2007 and 2008 and Big East Tournament tournamet titles in 2003 and 2012. Notre Dame earned a share of the ACC regular season title in 2013 and the outright ACC regular season title in 2014.

The Irish have earned a total of nineteen berths in the NCAA Tournament including fifteen times in the past sixteen seasons. They have been awarded one of the top sixteen seeds a total of eleven times including the number one seed in 2012 and 2014. Notre Dame has advanced to the Round of Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament nine times including the past five seasons. They have played their way into the Elite Eight three times (2006, 2007, 2013) and won the National Championship in 2013.

In 2016 Notre Dame rocketed out to a 10-1-1 record and a number one ranking in the CSN National Poll and a number two ranking in the NSCAA National Poll. During that span they recorded signature wins over the likes of New Mexico, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, and Indiana. However from that point forward they slumped losing four straight to go 2-6-1 for the remainder of the season with losses to Virginia, Northwestern, Duke, Michigan State Wake Forest and Louisville to conclude the 2016 campaign with a 12-7-2 overall record and a 3-3-2 mark in conference play. During the later part of the 2013 season the Irish continued to get the best of the run of play for the most part but unlike the first part of the season they were unable to come up with the big plays needed to prevail.

Based on the body of their work in 2016, Notre Dame was awarded the number thirteen seed in the NCAA Tournament. They subsequently advanced past Loyola Chicago 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament before being topped 3-1 by fellow ACC member and number four seeded Lousiville 3-1 in the Sweet Sixteen.   

Forward Jon Gallagher was named a 2016 Second Team All-America Team selection by College Soccer News. Defender Brandon Aubrey was named a 2016 Second Team All-American by the NSCAA and College Soccer News. Gallagher was named the 2016 ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Gallagher and Aubrey were both All-ACC First Team selections. Midfielder Evan Panken was a 2016 All-ACC Third Team selection. Midfielder Tommy McCabe was named a College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team selection and to the ACC All-Freshman Team.    

Number Starters Returning in 2017:  Seven  

Offense: Only one of Notre Dames top four point producers from the 2016 squad is slated to return. The good news is that the one who does return is senior forward Jon Gallagher (14g, 7a) who lead the attack up-top in 2016.

Gallagher is among the top finishers in the country and will enter the 2017 season having scored a total of twenty-seven goals.  His output has increased yearly which bodes well for his continued growth and the success of the Irish in 2017. Gallagher will no doubt continue to the the Irish go-to guy in clutch situations. The versatility of his game makes him difficult to contain.

Senior forward Jeffrey Farina (1g, 7a) also returms to give Notre Dame an experienced duo up-top that should be very productive. Farina is a playmaker who will enter the 2017 campaign with a total of six goals and fourteen assists over the past three seasons. 

The offensive productivity of center back Brandon Aubrey who had a breakout season in 2016 during which he scored nine goals including three game-winners will be missed. Aubrey's effectiveness out of free kicks added an additional dimension to the Irish attack.  

Freshman forward Simon Roennecke who played for the CSA Wolves is among the newcomers who could add another element to the offense as the season progresses.

The graduation of Evan Panken who had eighty-eight career starts during his four year tenure at Notre Dame and holding midfielder Oliver Harris creates gaps that must be plugged in the midfield but also presents the opportunity for others who are eager to step forward and secure a greater role.

Senior Blake Townes (1g, 5a) and junior Thomas Ueland (2g, 1a) are among returning midfielders with the ability to add additional firepower to the attack. Ueland is the only returning player other than Gallagher who scored two or more goals last year. Sophomores Tommy McCabe (0g, 1a) and Jack Casey (1g, 3a) who now have a year of experience under their belts should also play a key role in the midfield. Senior Kyle Dedrick and junior Sean Macleod who saw limited action last year also look to be in the mix for a greater role in the midfield in 2017. 

Defense: Notre Dame will miss the talent and experience that center back Brandon Aubrey who was a three year starter and right back Michael Shipp who was a two year starter brought to the pitch. The nine goals that Aubrey netted in 2016 will also be missed. 

On the plus side, fifth-year center back Matt Habrowski returns along with junior back Sean Dedrick to provide a solid foundation in the backline. Senior Patrick Berneski, junior Felicien Dumas and sophomore Senan Farrelly are among other returning defenders who look to be in the mix for a greater role in 2017.  

Fifth-year senior Chris Hubbard who has been the starter between the pipes for the Irish for the past two seasons returns to provide a stable, capable, and experienced presence in goal. Last year Hubbard had a 0.78 goals against average and posted nine shutouts. 

The experience that fifth-year seniors Habrowski and Hubbard bring to the table will help ease the transition for the new starters in the back. . .  

Newcomers:

Bobby Clark stated, "This is a good class, adding at goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward. It's a very hard-working group, and even though many of them are now playing academy we all saw them while playing for non-academy teams and at camp." Clark added, "I'm very excited about this class. It's filled with players we've really liked that we've watched over a number of years, and we're very comfortable with them."

MItch McDonald - Defender - Troy, Michigan - Troy High School - Played for the Vardar Academy U-18 team. All-league and all-disrict selection in high school as a sophomore.

Alden McFadden - Midfielder - West Chester, Pennsylvania - B. Reed Henderson HIgh School - Scored a total of 37 goals and conributed 37 assists at Henderson. 2015 360 CC HIgh School Player of the Year. All-League selection. Played for Penn Fusion 98 Elite Team. 

Keagan McLaughlin - Goalkeeper - Zanesville, Ohio. - Bishop Rosecrans High School - Four year letterwinner at Bishop Rosecrans. Two-time NSCAA Great Lakes State Region High School team selection. Three-time All-State selection. District Player of the Year. Played with Xtabi.

Townsend Meyer - Midfielder - San Diego, California - Point Lowa High School - Four Year letter-winner at Point Lowa. Played for Albion SC. Region IV ODP team member. 

Simon Roennecke - Forward - Pleasant Ridge, Michigan - The Roeper School - Played with CSA Wolves U-18 Academy. Letterwinner at Roeper for three seasons he played there. Scored a total of 98 goals and had 57 career goals at Roeper. All-State selection as a junior. Also played with the Force Football Club.  

Prognosis for 2017: Over the past sixteen years Bobby Clark has transformed Notre Dame into one of the nation's top programs. Clark has the Irish set up to reload annually rather than rebuild when key players depart due to graduation.

A solid core returns in 2017 which provides Clark a talented and experience necleus upon which to build despite the graduation of a solid senior class that included All-American back Brandon Aubrey who was a three-year starter, back Michael Shipp who was a two-year starter, midfielder Evan Panken who was a four-year starter, holding midfielder Oliver Harris and forward Mark Gormley.

The Irish look to have a nice blend of experience among the upper and lower classmen which is a plus. They showed a lot of promise in the spring season but Notre Dame is still somewhat of a work in progress. 

To write a different ending in 2017 there are areas where improvement is needed. For starters, the Irish will need to add diversity and balance to their attack. In fact this may be the biggest concern heading into the 2017 campaign.

The offense will start with Dundalk, Ireland native Jon Gallagher and Jeffrey Farina. Gallagher is a prime timer up-top who will net his share of goals. However, there is a price to be paid if the attack is one dimensional and the space in which Gallagher has to operate is limited. Senior forward Jeffrey Farina is a capable finisher and playmaker who could prove to be the X-Factor and the key to adding balance and diversity to the attack. 

The ability of the Irish midfielders to control the middle of the park, maintain possession, and get the ball to the feet of the guys up-top is another critical success factor. Senior Blake Townes, junior Thomas Ueland and sophomores Tommy McCabe and Jack Casey are among the returning linkmen who will likely be counted upon to accomplish that. Their efforts in that regard may not show up in the statistics but will be a crucial aspect of the Irish attack.

Effectiveness out of set pieces looks to be another key factor in regard to adding balance and offensive productivity. 

The ability of the Irish to fill the void that exists in the back due to the graduation of Brendan Aubrey and Michael Shipp looks to be the key to continued effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball. Their departure means that less experienced players will have to step up and fill the void.

There are no mysteries when it comes to the type of player Bobby Clark seeks to recruit. Notre Dame is not a hard sell on the recruiting circuit but Clark has a good eye for talented team players who work hard and want to improve. The 2017 recruiting class, although a little under the radar, has a lot of potential. Look for one or two of the newcomers to push themselves into the mix at some point.

For many years now the Irish have been a consistent contender, carving out a team identity and style of play that keeps them battling for a top national ranking and a spot in the highley competitive ACC which had no less than nine teams in the NCAA Tourney field last year.

The bottom line heading into the 2017 season is that the Notre Dame roster contains enough talent across the board to once again contend for the ACC title and prominence on the national scene. It is a good sign that the Irish showed promise during the spring season but they clearly have holes to fill and oppurtunities for improvement exist.

The degree to which they are able to take advantage of the opportunities for improvement that exist on both sides of the ball will determine just how successful they are in 2017.