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Preview: No. 5 Demon Deacon Men’s Soccer Travels to Notre Dame

After a 0-0 draw with NC State, the Deacs will look to get back on track against a tricky, hot Notre Dame team.

NCAA SOCCER: DEC 11 Men’s College Cup National Championship - Wake Forest vs Stanford Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons men’s soccer team saw its first draw of the season last week against the NC State Wolfpack in a dull 0-0 affair, but the 5th ranked Deacs will have to refocus this week against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend. The Irish are coming off of a 1-0 win against the Division II powerhouse Calvin Knights. They carry an 8-5 record overall and a 4-3 conference record, while the Deacs hold a 9-2-1 mark with a 7-2-1 conference record. With the Deacs still reeling from several key departures, they’ll need new players to step up to deal to combat the best team on their schedule so far this spring.

The Matchup

The most recent game between these two teams was not a pretty one, as Wake fell 1-0 at home to the Irish, the lone goal coming from Patrick Coleman. The Deacs have won only 2 of their last 5 against Notre Dame, with the two sides having a tied series over that span with two wins each and a 2-2 draw. ND have been a tough team to put down in the ACC this year, as after losing their first two matchups to the Pittsburgh Panthers and Louisville Cardinals, they’ve gone 4-1 since, including ranked wins over the Virginia Cavaliers and North Carolina Tar Heels, with their only loss coming March 7th against UVA in OT. As per usual, they look like a tournament bound team, and, as with NC State, they retained their full roster for the spring.

Notre Dame are a team similar to NC State in philosophy. They are a very direct team that does not commit many players to the attack. They rely on their front three to create pressure and their midfield to bog down the opposing attack. They are not a very pressure-oriented team and operate primarily out of a mid block. Their attacking game plan is primarily to hit long balls forward to their striker Jack Lynn to win aerial duels and direct the ball to someone in the middle, or to send long balls down the flanks for their wingers to run onto. They are a dominant team in the air, which is problematic for a Demon Deacon team that is lacking in height, especially with the absence of Garrison Tubbs, who I do still expect to be out for this game. The Deacs will likely face identical problems to the ones they faced versus State last week, with a larger attacking threat going the other way. In games like this, you have to take one of the few chances you get and force this team to chase. For a team that plays well from ahead, like Wake, an early goal will likely be a huge focus for Bobby Muuss.

Ones To Watch:

Notre Dame:

#27 Jack Lynn (FW) and #10 Aiden McFadden (W): Because I don’t think that you can mention one without the other, I will give these two a joint section. If ND gets anything going in the attack, one of these two will be involved. Lynn is a big, strong center forward with deceptive speed and good feet. He wins a lot of balls in the air and he scores a lot of goals: the prototype for a striker in a system like Notre Dame’s. He sits second in the ACC with 8 goals, tied with Kimarni Smith who is now in MLS and behind Valentin Noel of Pitt, who has 10. Aiden McFadden is the primary creator on this team. He’s a player with a great motor, good speed, a great passing ability and a solid finish. He has 3 goals and 4 assists for the Irish this season and was selected by Atlanta United in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft, but remains in South Bend for the spring season. Lynn’s 16 points lead the team, while McFadden’s 10 sit second. They have scored 11 of the team’s 16 goals. No one else on the team has more than 4 points. These two are the lifeblood of ND’s attack and the Deacs will have to contain them to stay alive in this game.

Wake Forest:

#14 Jahlane Forbes (W): The freshman has been a revelation for the Deacs this spring after moving from left back to left wing. He scored the game winner against Davidson in the spring opener, and, although he hasn’t made a contribution that has ended up on the stat sheet since then, he has looked like the Deacs’ main attacking threat. Forbes is an intelligent player and a great athlete, he always seems to make the right decisions and his pace has been a great asset to Wake’s attack. It feels like he’s been doing all the right things in these last couple of games and has just been unlucky not to end up with a goal or assist to show for it. Keep an eye on his play in this one.

#10 Oscar Sears (MF): Another freshman, Sears has been a lot quieter than Forbes. But, he’s found his way into the rotation at the attacking midfield spot with Bobby Muuss trying to find a consistent starter for that role. Sears was involved in the few chances that fell to Wake last week against State, including the biggest of the game where he gave the ball to Kyle Holcomb at the top of the box for a dangerous shot. He looked very sharp in that game and is finally finding his feet in the ACC. After Omar Hernandez did not play at all in last week’s overtime, look for Sears to play a lot this week and have an impact.

Kickoff for this game is scheduled for 7:00 PM tonight.