CHESTER, PA — December 13 – New Mexico’s previously impregnable defense was breached twice by Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan as the Fighting Irish progressed to their first ever College Cup final with a 2-0 win.
The Fighting Irish took an early lead thanks to Hodan’s low finish, taking advantage of some good work from Harrison Shipp up front.
Hodan notched again in the 65th minute with a looping header, and from there it was comfortable for Notre Dame as they coasted into Sunday’s final.
New Mexico played with four at the back, looking to preserve their 100% clean sheet record in the NCAA Tournament, with James Rogers and Niko Hansen leading the line.
Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish also played a 4-4-2 formation led by Shipp up front, looking to add to his impressive tally of 12 goals this season.
The Lobos had the better of the early exchanges despite the freezing conditions, but it was Notre Dame who took the early lead with just six minutes on the clock.
Shipp used his strength well up front and laid the ball on a plate for Hodan, who jinked past a defender and hit a low finish past New Mexico goalkeeper Michael Lisch.
The early goal seemed to shock the previously impregnable Lobos defenders, and Vince Cicciarelli seized upon some indecision in the back to fire a shot into the side netting.
Christopher Wehan managed to create an opening for himself with 23 minutes on the clock with a weaving run in the penalty area, but the New Mexico midfielder shot straight at Patrick Wall.
However, the game rapidly became bogged down in the midfield as neither side was able to assert themselves, despite the best efforts of Shipp in particular, who continued to cause problems continually for the New Mexico defense.
It was Shipp again who caused problems for the Lobos in the remaining five minutes, forcing a parried save from Lisch, but opportunities were few and far between before the referee blew the whistle for halftime.
The second half began in a similar fashion, as Notre Dame pushed forward with promise but were greeted by a stout Lobos defense, reinvigorated by the halftime break.
However, New Mexico began to enjoy more of the ball and saw Wehan send a shot whistling just past the post after a corner just after the hour mark was not cleared properly by the Fighting Irish.
Almost immediately Notre Dame went up the other end, and Ciccarelli saw a shot on the break rebound off the crossbar.
Thankfully for the Irish, Hodan was on hand inside the box to head the ball over Lisch and give his side a 2-0 lead in the 65th minute.
Cicciarelli then had another good chance, as after some good work got him away from the Lobos defense he hit a decent shot that was perhaps too close to Lisch, who parried well.
Notre Dame continued to press as they had done all night, but looked comfortable on both sides of the ball as New Mexico could not find any meaningful response.
The fulltime whistle could not come soon enough, and it meant that Notre Dame qualified for their first ever College Cup final with their straightforward victory.
Chris Teale is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. He is reporting from the College Cup at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. You can reach him at Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @chris_teale