With Duke heading into the final weeks of the regular season, it managed to avoid a slip-up against ACC competition to maintain a strong position heading into the conference tournament.
The No. 19 Blue Devils traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers at Ambrose Urbanic Field Friday night. Thanks to early momentum generated by senior Brian White and a stalwart performance from freshman goalkeeper Will Pulisic, Duke notched a 2-0 victory despite a relentless Pittsburgh attack in the second half.
The Blue Devils (9-2-1, 3-2-0) opened the evening with a bang with White applying pressure deep into Panther territory. The Duke senior capitalized on poor positioning from Pittsburgh's defense to intercept an errant pass and notch his seventh goal of the year, putting the Blue Devils in front 1-0 in the 16th minute.
Although Duke did not find the back of the net for the rest of the first half, the Blue Devils were not without opportunities to widen their lead.
Sophomore Suniel Veerakone exploded off the bench with three shots in the first half, forcing Pittsburgh's Mikal Outcalt to make two impressive saves. White nearly put the Blue Devils up by two on a rebound off the second save, but shot it just high.
However, the hosts did not let Duke off easy.
At the start of the second half, the Panthers (6-6-0, 1-4-0) found another gear, hounding the Blue Devil defense for most of the period. In the 52nd minute, Pittsburgh nearly equalized with back-to-back shots from Javi Perez and Marcony Pimentel. The two Panther midfielders stormed Duke’s back line, with Pulisic getting a quick save off a shot from Perez. However, Pimentel intercepted the rebound and attacked the Blue Devils just seconds later, but his shot sailed just over the crossbar.
Although Pittsburgh wrestled for control of the ball in the final minutes of the period, senior Cameron Moseley put the game away in the final seconds of the match. Playing off a pass from sophomore Brandon Williamson, Moseley rebounded off a save from Outcalt with a shot that deflected off the Panther keeper, putting the Blue Devils up 2-0.
Duke’s offense put up strong numbers and forced Outcalt to make six saves through the evening, but the Blue Devils can attribute much of Friday's win to a rock-solid defense. Pulisic matched a career high with four saves for the evening, and Duke’s defenders limited Pittsburgh to eight shots.
However, it was far from a clean affair for the Blue Devils. They were caught offsides four times and committed 16 fouls, giving the Panthers opportunities to take control of the ball despite being outplayed on both offense and defense. Against nationally-ranked opposition, these miscues could prove to be costly.
Duke will return to play Monday against No. 10 Georgetown in Washington, where the Blue Devils will have the opportunity to notch their first top-10 win of the season.
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