Duke will be looking to showcase its new offensive potential as the start to a new season looms.
Duke opens its season with the John Rennie Nike Invitational tournament at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils will face Rutgers Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Northeastern Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
“I think it’s so far so good,” head coach John Kerr said. “We’ve done really well, worked really hard in preseason and addressed some of the things we wanted to cover, and now we’re finally trying to play a game that’s meaningful.”
The Blue Devils will kick off the 2013 campaign against two strong programs.Rutgers boasts a highly-touted freshman class. Headlined by midfielder Erik Sa, the Scarlet Knights’ recruiting class was ranked No. 22 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. Sophomore Mael Corboz was named a second-team preseason All-American by College Sports Madness after a rookie season in which he scored three goals and had seven assists.
Northeastern posted a record of 14-3-4 in 2012, winning its first Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship, reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002 and advancing to the second round.
“Two very good teams, tough teams to beat,” Kerr said. “Good reputations in our tournament—the John Rennie Nike Invitational.”
The biggest change for Duke will be the absence of James Belshaw between the pipes. The 6-foot-3 goalkeeper was a mainstay during his four-year stint at Duke.
“It’s a little strange not having [Belshaw] with us this year,” Kerr said. “It’ll be a little strange, but Alex Long has done a great job in preseason transitioning into our starting keeper.”
Long will be making his first regular-season start for the Blue Devils. The graduate student played three seasons at South Carolina before transferring to play out his final year of eligibility at Duke.
In the Blue Devils’ second game, Long will face a Northeastern team that scored more than twice as many goals as it conceded last season. But the Huskies have important pieces to replace as well and will be without All-American Don Anding, who graduated after posting 14 goals and seven assists last season.
Duke will rely on two more newcomers to kickstart its offense, which managed to score just 20 goals in 18 games last season. Freshmen Brody Huitema and Seo-In Kim both had a goal and an assist in the Blue Devils’ final exhibition game, a 4-2 victory against Old Dominion and are expected to make an impact in their first collegiate season.
“Those two guys have done really well so far in preseason,” Kerr said. “[They have] shown a lot of poise for young players and not been intimidated at all. We feel like they are going to have a lot of minutes for us.”
Duke will hope that it does not have to rely as much on its back line for goals as it did last season. Center back Sebastien Ibheaga led the Blue Devils with five goals in 2012, but Kerr said that Duke’s scoring load this year will likely lie more heavily on its retooled offense.
“We finally feel that we have more of an offense than we did last season,” Kerr said. “Our defense has been outstanding the past season. Our offense has grown drastically this season and I think now we’ll be a much more balanced team this year and we’ll cause teams a lot more problems.”