CHESTER, PA — To some, Patrick Hodan does not necessarily look like a soccer player who makes a tremendous impact in virtually every game he plays.
A quiet, understated, even shy character, the midfielder may look at times like he struggles with the limelight, but as his performance for Notre Dame against New Mexico in the College Cup semifinal shows, in fact he relishes it.
Even Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick didn’t quite see what the fuss was about when Head Coach Bobby Clark showed him what he described as a “top recruit.”
Swarbrick was unconvinced at first, and said that Hodan did not “look like much of a top recruit to me” as the young midfielder was put through his paces before joining last season.
How wrong he is, but it is perhaps an easy assumption to make.
When interviewed after the semifinal, in which he scored two superb goals and ran the midfield for the Fighting Irish, Hodan instead thrust all the credit onto his teammates in his quiet, understated way.
After the game, he said of his performance: “It’s been nice. We’ve been doing really well on the offensive side of the ball in our last four NCAA games.
“We’ve really started to move the ball well. Everyone’s finding an open guy, and whoever scores, as long as they score.”
At no stage does Hodan take any credit for himself, and he is always keen to emphasise how important his teammates are in every game they play.
However, based on his play from his first two years with the Fighting Irish, Hodan is definitely an individual who has a great deal of influence on the field, more than he would ever admit to.
A record-breaking goalscorer at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Hodan came to Notre Dame as a highly-rated recruit and immediately set about proving he was capable of making the step up to the college game.
Last season, he was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team after six goals and five assists, including a goal against Akron in what was his first career start. He was also named as a Big East Academic All-Star in what was a very impressive first year with the Fighting Irish.
This year, his good work has continued apace, as Hodan has now scored 11 goals and notched five assists, sitting second in team points behind Harrison Shipp.
Clearly then, this is a young man who is incredibly gifted and ready to deliver on the biggest stage of college soccer on Sunday in the final of the College Cup.
Head Coach Bobby Clark is a big fan of Hodan, despite what appears to be a relatively slight appearance compared to other soccer players.
“Mark my words, this kid can play,” Clark said after the game. “He’s a little guy, he’s a thin guy, but if you’ve not seen him before he’s like Superman when he puts on a uniform and starts playing.
“When you see him wandering in, he’s just a very ordinary young man. He’s a natural goalscorer. He set his high school record at Marquette University HS in Milwaukee.
“He’s really a striker, and although he plays as a wide midfielder he really is a goalscorer. That’s his thing. He’s a special talent, and he’s a special kid.”
Judging by his double in what was Notre Dame’s first College Cup appearance, Hodan is an individual who is critical for the Fighting Irish’s success. As ever, he will be key in the final on Sunday as they try and secure their first national title.
Chris Teale is a contributing writer for College Soccer News. He is reporting from the College Cup at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. He can be reached at Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @chris_teale