Amid a three match winless streak, Duke will head to Dail Soccer Stadium to take on N.C. State Friday in Raleigh.
The Blue Devils (3-5-1,1-2-1 in the ACC) are coming off a heartbreaking defeat against then-No. 6 North Carolina. Despite leading 1-0 until the 87th minute, a couple of late red cards condemned them to a 2-1 overtime defeat.
“We were not disappointed at all with respect to our approach to the game, and the circumstances were very unfortunate,” head coach John Kerr said. “We’re looking forward to the game tomorrow night. We’ve had a really good week of training. It’s been lively, and we have a good game plan organized for the game tomorrow night and we’re excited about the chance to win against N.C. State.”
The Wolfpack (7-4-0, 0-3-0) are also playing through a slump. After starting its season with a run of six straight wins, N.C. State has won just one of its last five.
“They had a great start to the season,” Kerr said. “However, they are 0-3 in the ACC so it’s a pivotal game for both teams and it’s going to be a pressure-packed atmosphere with a lot of fans from N.C. State there, and I hope a few fans from Duke.”
To win, Duke will have to look at shutting down the Wolfpack’s prolific offense. N.C. State has found the back of the net 24 times this season, compared to the Blue Devils’ 10. The most dangerous player could be junior Alex Martinez, who has been in sensational form, notching eight goals and five assists in the first 11 games.
“They can hurt you from all over the field,” Kerr said. “They’ve got two really good wide players who like taking guys on, scoring a goal and can score from any angle.”
Duke will likely turn to senior goalkeeper James Belshaw to anchor the defense—who has been in top form this season and has already garnered four shutouts. “We’re aware of their offense and we need to make sure we’re on our toes,” Kerr said. “We need to help each other. We have to have cover in behind. Basically, we have to be very sharp and make sure we’re staying with our runners.”
If the defense can turn in a strong performance, the Blue Devils will need their attackers to start scoring more after a sluggish start to the season.
Duke’s third-leading scorer last season Nick Palodichuk has struggled this year, scoring two goals from 22 shots for a .091 shot percentage.
“To be fair to Nick, he’s had surgery in the offseason in spring and he’s not fully a 100% yet,” Kerr said. “He’s been playing with a swollen ankle all season long, and its very difficult for him getting around. So he’s doing the best he can and even though he’s not scoring all the time, he’s still there on the defensive half, and so there’s really nothing to worry about,”
Palodichuk may have the chance to finally break through offensively against N.C. State. Although Duke is averaging just 1.11 goals per game, N.C. State has allowed seven goals in its three ACC contests.
“I think our team’s a talented team but we’ve been hit with a few injuries, a couple of unfortunate cards,” Kerr said. “We have had a number of obstacles to overcome but I think we’re in a good frame of mind, and I think if we get a good result against N.C. State things will fall into place.”