The Blue Devils wanted another shot at a top-10 team after falling just short of pulling an upset twice against North Carolina and Louisville.
This time, thanks to a herculean defensive effort, they finally finished the job.
No. 19 Duke knocked off No. 10 Georgetown 2-1 at Shaw Field in Washington Monday afternoon. The Blue Devil defense was under pressure all game, but senior Brian White and freshman Daniel Wright scored timely goals as Duke managed to hang on and grab a huge win.
“We haven’t been in this spot for a while,” Blue Devil head coach John Kerr told GoDuke.com. “It’s kind of a good feeling. We finally believe in ourselves. We’re beating some good teams, we’re winning on the road, we’re playing some good stuff and we’re grinding out results.”
The first half was mostly a quiet affair with few clear-cut scoring chances for either team. However, Duke (10-2-1) took advantage of one of its few opportunities.
In the 25th minute, sophomore Jack Doran lofted a beautiful ball into the box from the left side as White darted into the area. White met the ball with his head about 12 yards from goal and guided it expertly to the near post, wrong-footing the keeper and giving the Blue Devils the lead. It was White’s eighth goal of the season and his second in as many games.
The Hoyas (8-2-1) mounted more pressure following the goal, but were held at bay for the rest of the half, giving Duke the advantage at the break.
Georgetown came out guns blazing in the second half, pinning the Blue Devils back deep into their own end. It took several heroic efforts from senior captain Markus Fjørtoft to keep Duke ahead, but the pressure eventually overwhelmed the defense in the 66th minute. Freshman goalkeeper Will Pulisic saved a shot but could not control the rebound, which was smashed in by freshman forward Derek Dodson to tie the match.
But the Blue Devils had an almost immediate response thanks to an incredible individual effort. Just more than a minute later, Wright picked up the ball and beat the defense down the left flank before bearing down on goal and slotting the ball coolly past the keeper into the far side netting.
“To recover and get a goal against the run of play was heartwarming and gave us a lot of confidence,” Kerr said. “There were a lot of momentum shifts in this game, and I bet it was for the fans a really interesting game to watch.”
Following the goal, Duke settled down and attempted to control the game. Things were relatively quiet for a brief period before the Hoyas ratcheted up the intensity again in search of a tying goal.
Pulisic and the back line stood strong, though, thwarting every attack. Pulisic in particular was very impressive and finished the match with eight saves, including one on a point-blank header off a corner kick with 45 seconds remaining to preserve the win.
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“They were serving balls in from both sides, corner kicks, taking shots from every angle,” Kerr said. “[Pulisic] did a great job, and the defenders did a good job clearing all but one opportunity.”
The Blue Devils were outshot 19-8 on the afternoon, but outdid Georgetown in the only stat that matters. They were helped by the absence of the Hoyas’ leading scorer Achara, who has scored six goals in seven games already this season.
The match concludes a run of four games in 10 days for Duke, which went 3-1 during that period to position itself well for an NCAA tournament bid entering the final stretch of ACC play. The Blue Devils now have some time to rest before another big opportunity on Friday night, when No. 5 Clemson comes to Durham for a heavyweight ACC matchup that will have major postseason implications.