The Blue Devils entered their first home game in almost three weeks looking for their second first-half goal of the season and more consistent offensive play.
They got neither against one of the many suffocating defenses in the ACC.
Duke struggled to convert possession into shots early against No. 12 Wake Forest Friday evening at Koskinen Stadium and never recovered, suffering a 2-0 setback. After stopping a few Blue Devil chances early on, the Demon Deacons sent a steady onslaught of shots at Duke goalkeeper Robert Moewes, breaking through for unassisted goals in the 19th and 25th minutes.
On the other end of the field, Wake Forest goalkeeper Alec Ferrell had a stress-free first half—Duke did not have any shots on goal in the opening period and finished the game with five.
"Goals change games. They score a goal and we're like, 'Oh my God, we play really well for 20 minutes and they score,'" Blue Devil head coach John Kerr said. "We didn't get a handle of ourselves for the first five to 10 minutes after they scored."
For the second straight game, Kerr's team got off to a slow start offensively. Although Duke (2-2-1, 0-2 in the ACC) hoped to start quickly—six of its seven goals this season have come in the second half—it struggled after the Demon Deacons blocked a shot by freshman Suniel Veerakone in the fifth minute.
Beginning with a shot by All-ACC midfielder Ian Harkes in the fourth minute, Wake Forest peppered Moewes with shots from all angles.
The Dortmund, Germany, native kept Wake Forest at bay with multiple saves to make up for breakdowns in front of him in the first 15 minutes, but the Demon Deacons (5-1-1, 2-0) finally broke through in the 19th minute.
Wake Forest freshman Ema Twumasi found some room near the left side of the box, and the Ghana native made the most of it, spinning and firing a shot past Moewes into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Demon Deacons' insurance goal was very similar and came just minutes later.
After receiving a pass about 30 yards away from goal, Jon Bakero got past Duke freshman CC Uche. The Wake Forest junior then dribbled slightly to his right and sent a shot from the top of the box into the back of the net.
"We just stepped back a little bit," Kerr said. "We were so worried about them getting behind.... We dropped off too much, allowed them too much space and were punished for it."
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With its smothering defense—Wake Forest has allowed just two goals all season—the Demon Deacons made sure their early lead would stand up.
The Blue Devils' first shot on goal came in the 58th minute, and the few times Duke did get behind Wake Forest's backline, it was once again unable to finish. The Blue Devils have now scored just once in their last 270 minutes of game action, though all three games have come against top-25 competition.
One of Duke's best chances to score came in the 31st minute, when a cross found the foot of Bryson Asher on the left side of the box just a few yards away from goal. But the junior midfielder was unable to control the shot, sending it over the crossbar.
Junior forward Macario Hing-Glover forced Ferrell to make a diving stop in the 58th minute on a shot from the right side of the box, and a minute later Ferrell denied graduate student Ryan Thompson. Thompson had another chance to score in the 83rd minute, but a Demon Deacon defender deflected the shot to preserve the shutout. Ferrell made two more saves in the game's final minutes just for good measure.
"In the first half, we definitely didn't string together our passes the way we wanted to," Thompson said. "In the second half, we got some good momentum and got some good opportunities."
The Blue Devils outshot Wake Forest 10-2 in the second half and had six second-half corners, but despite their efforts in the final 35 minutes to send more players forward, they could not get past Ferrell, a second-team All-ACC goalkeeper.
The Blue Devils will have little time to bounce back from a second straight loss, as they host Georgia Southern Tuesday at 7 p.m. and will look to get their offense on track.
"We created five or six really good looks at the goal and didn't convert," Kerr said. "Their goalie made some fantastic saves to be fair, and we've got to make sure we execute in those positions because they're good positions to be in, and next time we've got to get it right."