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Notre Dame shows its class in win over Bethlehem Steel FC

Fighting Irish kicked off their spring slate with a 2-1 win over Steel FC in a friendly at YSC Sports on Thursday

Philadelphia Union Academy grad Patrick Berneski
Matt Ralph

Philadelphia has been good to Notre Dame.

The last time head coach Bobby Clark brought a team to town, Harry Shipp led the Fighting Irish to its first national title with a curling free kick that found the head of West Chester native Andrew O’Malley for the eventual game-winner to beat Maryland 2-1.

That was in 20-degree weather in December 2013 that felt like a reprieve from the games the team had played in the teens in South Bend en route to the College Cup.

“If we’ve been able to come here we’ve always followed up well,” head coach Bobby Clark said after a 2-1 win over Bethlehem Steel in 20-degree weather and South Bend-style snow banks surrounding the perimeter of the field. “We came here in 2012, then we went on to win the final year in the Big East, beat Georgetown in the final and then the next year we came here and won a national championship.”

On Thursday, it was rising senior forward Jon Gallagher who provided the offense with a free kick late in the first half and a goal even later in the second half to seal the victory in the team’s first spring exhibition of the year. Gallagher’s goal came off a counter attack executed to perfection by midfielder Tommy McCabe. Five of Gallagher’s team-leading 14 goals in 2016 were game-winners.

Marcus Epps opened the scoring for Steel with one of the few clearcut chances on the day as a disciplined Notre Dame team, in vintage Bobby Clark fashion, proved difficult to break down.

“Even when we broke them down, they didn’t really break down,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said.

Anchoring the disciplined Notre Dame defense on the day were a pair of local guys in Philadelphia Union Academy graduate Patrick Berneski (Warrington, Pa.) and former Continental FC defender Senan Farrelly (Havertown, Pa.).

“Being from Philly we don’t have many games here throughout the year so it was awesome having my family here and getting the win was even better,” Berneski said after the game. “This is the first time in two years I’ve been back here. It’s been real nice playing on the fields and using the facilities again.”

The game was originally slated for the Power Training Complex in Chester, but had to be moved because of snow. YSC Sports ended up hosting Notre Dame, Bethlehem Steel and the first team for training during the week alongside the usual schedule of Union Academy training.

“It’s fantastic the way we’ve been looked after just by everybody here,” said Clark, who will enter his 17th season at the helm this fall after stops at Dartmouth, the New Zealand national team and Stanford over his 30-year coaching career. “And obviously it was a good game for us the first time out and it was a good game for them.”

Clark and his team are hoping they won’t have to wait long for a return trip to the region with the College Cup scheduled for Talen Energy Stadium again this December 8th and 10th.

“That would be a great story,” Clark said.