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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 20, 2018 1:00 am

Soccer Festival exciting for Irish

Ex-assistant Riley at the controls this time

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

Who: Indiana vs. Notre Dame

Where: Bishop D'Arcy Stadium

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10 adult, $7 high school and younger at the gate or $7 adult and $5 high school at Connolly's Do-it-Best Hardware stores and Soccer Plus

Web information: www.nationalsoccerfestival.com

SOUTH BEND – Chad Riley has been part of the National Soccer Festival before, but this time will be different.

The former Notre Dame player and assistant under longtime coach Bobby Clark took over for the retiring Clark in January as the men's soccer team's head coach.

In just his third full game, he'll face Indiana, the 2017 national runner-up, at Saint Francis' Bishop D'Arcy Stadium on Sunday as part of the spring version of the festival.

It will be the ninth straight year the teams have met in Fort Wayne for a spring game and the third time Riley will be on the Notre Dame sideline. He was an assistant coach for the first two iterations of the annual matchup in 2010 and 2011, but he expects a different experience as the head coach.

“Things are always a little bit different as the head coach,” said Riley, who played at Notre Dame from 2000 to '03. “But I think whether you're a player, an assistant coach or the head coach, you're always looking forward to competing against a good team.

“Training's great, but at the end of the day, we train to compete.”

The Irish have suffered back-to-back tight losses against the Hoosiers heading into Sunday's matchup. The teams met during the regular season in September, when Indiana was ranked No. 1 and Notre Dame was No. 7, and the Hoosiers escaped with a 1-0 victory.

The score was the same when the teams clashed at D'Arcy Stadium last season, with the Hoosiers winning on penalty kicks. It was the third straight victory for Indiana in the festival. Riley knows that history, but he said he's using the game more as a marker to see how his team has progressed during its spring schedule.

“We're always excited to play Indiana,” he said. “They're consistently one of the best teams in the country, and I think it's a really good time to really see, in the non-championship season, which is what we're here in now, kind of see where we are, see where we're strong and see where we're weak.”

Playing at D'Arcy Stadium will be a new experience for Riley. When the teams met in Fort Wayne while he was an assistant coach, the games were at Parkview Field. Clark, Riley's former coach, praised the annual event after the game last season and the new Notre Dame head coach had a similarly positive outlook on playing at the neutral site.

“It's always a really exciting environment,” Riley said. “The game itself is good, but I think the environment that's created in Fort Wayne (is good), with the city really coming out and embracing it and making it an exciting atmosphere for a team to play. As a coach and an assistant it's something I always looked forward to.”

Riley is interested to see how his team responds against elite competition, even though the matchup is more for bragging rights than anything else. Though the Irish have lost the last two to Indiana, the Hoosiers know that they face a tough opponent Sunday.

Fort Wayne native Spencer Glass, a redshirt freshman who got the assist in Indiana's 1-0 win over the Irish last fall, said he expects a difficult scoring environment against Notre Dame.

“They're definitely extremely solid defensively and are able to shift side to side really well,” said Glass, who attended Carroll but did not play for the school's soccer team. “So we'll just be trying to break them apart, moving the ball from side to side, trying to make them make a mistake.”

Notre Dame is coming off a game last Saturday against Kentucky and will finish its spring schedule next Friday against the Mexico U-20 National Team. 

dsinn@jg.net