Coach Mims hopeful Notre Dame loss strengthens team going forward

Photo by Omaha Athletics

Ray Koch

It’s safe to say that the South Omaha Classic didn’t go the way the Omaha men’s soccer team had hoped.

In its only exhibition match before the season gets underway, the Mavericks were shutout by #10 Notre Dame 2-0. Head coach Jason Mims wasn’t happy with how his team played in the first half.

“I thought we came out very scared and nervous, but that’s why we bring in a top-10 team like Notre Dame and have an environment like this,” he said.

The crowd of nearly 2,000 saw the Fighting Irish score a goal in each half—both by one of the country’s top prospects, Jon Gallagher.

The Mavericks came out of the gate controlling the pace, immediately trying to create scoring opportunities against the heavily-favored Irish. After about 10 minutes, the game swayed in favor of the top-10 ranked foes

It looked as if the two teams were heading toward a scoreless first half when a long pass had Omaha goalkeeper Ugo Tritz on an island against the reigning ACC offensive player of the year, Gallagher. As Tritz came running out of the net to try to beat Gallagher to the ball, the senior from Ireland put a one-touch chip over Tritz, and into the net to give the Irish a 1-0 lead.

With the game 1-0 Notre Dame, the demeanor of the game took on a whole new meaning.

“After the goal, we got upset and got very quiet for the rest of the half,” Mims said.

Even though both teams had put on a youth soccer clinic and ate a celebratory dinner the day before the match, there was absolutely no love-loss on the pitch.

A chippy game from the first minute, things took a turn for the worse with less than a minute to go in the first half.

With around 10 seconds left, a Notre Dame foul set up UNO with a set-piece opportunity 15 yards from the box. However, as the foul was called, a Notre Dame player nudged the ball away from the spot, leaving the Mavericks with barely any time to get a cross in the box. With time winding down, a dangerous cross was sent in by Ethan Bowman, and as Seth Rinderknecht and Michael Jaime went up to put a head on the ball, they incidentally collided with Notre Dame goalkeeper Chris Hubbard. Hubbard caught the ball, but as he was coming down he landed on his neck and had to be taken away on a stretcher.

A lone yellow card was issued to Omaha defender Michael Jaime following the play; but that was not enough justice for the Fighting Irish players who took their team name literally when a scrum ensued between both teams over the collision. The Irish were protecting their goalkeeper, and the Mavericks had to protect their players in response. The teams and coaches had to be separated, and it was clear that this was no longer a friendly exhibition.

“They were strong, very strong; but I think it was a tale of two halves,” Mims said.

When the second half started, both teams came out playing hard and were exceedingly physical. Questionable challenges from both teams resulted in 31 fouls and six yellow cards to players on both sides.

As in the first half, a long through ball found Jon Gallagher in dangerous territory in the 60th minute. As the ball slipped past Omaha defender Jacob Weiler, Gallagher found the ball at his feet inside the box, and even without a clear angle for a shot, Gallagher found the back of the net with a near-post rocket that flew by Ugo Tritz’ outstretched hands.

The remaining 30 minutes would be mostly controlled by the Mavericks, who saw a few scoring chances that barely missed. Head Coach Jason Mims hopes that the energy he saw out of his guys late in the second half will set the tone for the rest of the season.

“I was very happy with the freshman, I thought they came out with a ton of energy and didn’t play scared.”

One thing was clear, the UNO home crowd was as rowdy as ever. From the time the game started until the very last whistle, the faithful at Caniglia Field were optimistically awaiting a goal that never came. Even Coach Mims acknowledged the atmosphere that was present.

“The environment was excellent, what a great turn out. I just wish we could have given the fans more to cheer about in the first half.”

Coach Mims also hopes the Mavericks take the loss as a lesson and can produce different results next time the opportunity arises.

“It’s preseason, and with a team of the caliber of Notre Dame, we are going to learn a lot from this game; hopefully when we have this environment in the regular season, this won’t happen.”