Duke men's soccer downs DePaul 1-0 behind Mathers' goal

<p>Senior Zach Mathers provided the only offense Sunday, scoring in the opening minute of the second half to propel Duke to a 1-0 win against DePaul.</p>

Senior Zach Mathers provided the only offense Sunday, scoring in the opening minute of the second half to propel Duke to a 1-0 win against DePaul.

Through an uneventful and scoreless first half, Duke was playing without much urgency or intensity. Senior Zach Mathers saw to it personally that the sluggish Blue Devil play would end there.

Just 44 seconds into the second period, the Keller, Texas, native cut through the top of the box and put the ball into the back left of the net. That was the lone goal of the day for both teams as Duke defeated DePaul 1-0 at Koskinen Stadium Sunday afternoon to cap the John Rennie Nike Invitational.

“We’re very happy with the win,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. All credit to DePaul and coach [Craig] Blazer—they put our game plan together and they made it really difficult for us. They defended stoutly and had a couple of opportunities, but not too many, so I’m pleased.”

The first 40 minutes of play were quiet for both sides. Although not reflected on the scoreboard, the Blue Devils (2-0) dominated from kickoff. Sophomores Macario Hing-Glover and Jeremy Ebobisse connected on a combination up the right side of the field within the opening minutes to put the Blue Demons (0-2) on their heels. Duke outshot DePaul 6-2 in the first period, but failed to convert on any of the scoring chances. Neither of the Blue Demons’ shots required a save from goalkeeper Wilson Fisher.

The Blue Devils also had multiple opportunities to score off of set plays. Duke defender Jared Rist took the only two corner kicks of the half. DePaul committed 10 fouls, which set the Blue Devils up for some close-range shots, but junior goalkeeper Quentin Low was able to ward off the two on-target attempts fired at him. The offensive prowess of two-time All-ACC choice Mathers proved to be too much for the Blue Demon goaltender to handle, though, as the senior scored right out of the gate in the second half. He finished the game leading the team with three shots—two of which were on goal—in his 79 minutes of play.

“As a captain I have to step up to the next level and I try to do that all the time,” Mathers said. “They kind of stepped off me a little bit and gave me the opportunity to get into that space and get shots off.”

After Mathers’ goal, Duke seemed to slump into the slow, tired play that plagued the team throughout the first half. It was not until the Blue Demons made their presence known—catching up in both shot count and corner kicks—that the Blue Devils snapped back into shape. Although DePaul refused to go down without a fight, Duke tightened its defense and held on through the rest of the half to ensure the victory.

With Sunday’s win, the Blue Devils secured their first shutout victory since last October against Virginia Tech, allowing just eight shots and three corner kicks in the defensive showcase. After yielding a conference-worst 34 goals last season, Sunday’s effort was a signal that the offseason emphasis on the defensive end of the pitch may be paying off for Duke.

“For our club it’s good to get a shutout,” Kerr said. “We’ve been searching for shutouts for a long time and to get one is a really good thing for our defense and for Wilson Fisher. We held them out and we didn’t give them too many looks at the goal, so I’m pleased with the defensive effort.”

On the other end of the field, the Blue Devil offense struggled to connect with the midfield and convert on its best opportunities. Only one of Duke’s four shots on goal was put forward by a member of the front line. After a strong showing Friday night against Saint Mary’s, Kerr said that the Blue Devil attack felt the effects of playing two full matches in less than 48 hours.

Duke will have plenty of time to recover while enjoying a five-day break before their next contest. The Blue Devils will host Iona Saturday and Loyola Sept. 8 before hosting reigning NCAA champion Virginia for the start of conference play.

“We need to keep getting those wins up on our ledger and keep moving forward,” Kerr said. “We need to pick it up a notch because the meat of our season is coming up soon with the ACC schedule. Those games aren’t going to be easy, so we need to be more consistent throughout the game. It’s early in the season and we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re happy to be 2-0 right now.”


Share and discuss “Duke men's soccer downs DePaul 1-0 behind Mathers' goal” on social media.