Blue Zone columnist Jason Atwood takes a look at Daniele Proch, who has turned heads so far for Duke's men's soccer team and seems poised to push the Blue Devils to the next level.

There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Duke men’s soccer squad. With one of the most talented rosters in program history, the Blue Devils have started the season 3-0 and are currently No. 2 nationally. While there are number of players who have been critical to Duke’s strong start, it has been Daniele Proch who has truly been outstanding. 

Proch hails from Riva del Garda, Italy and began his career in 2013-14 by playing as an attacking midfielder for the FC Sudritol U19 team. He spent two seasons playing for Dro Calcio before beginning his career in the United States with Catawba College.

In Proch’s first season as a Blue Devil, he was a key contributor on the 2017 Duke team that made it to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Italian native tallied 5 goals and 2 assists across 20 games, finishing second on the team with 12 points and leading the team in shot percentage. He started 17 games at midfield and showed a knack for clutch goals, scoring the game-winners against Fordham, Elon, and Delaware.  

Proch’s offensive contributions last season came as a surprise to few as he showed that he could be a productive player in his freshman season at Catawba. The midfielder scored 8 goals and dished out 7 assists on his way to being named the South Atlantic Conference Freshman of the Year. Duke head coach John Kerr took notice of Proch and offered him a spot on his team.

However, as promising as Proch’s first two seasons were, few could predict his torrid start to this one. So far, Proch has taken his game to another level, spearheading this dangerous Duke offense. The 5’7" junior has scored five goals in these first three games, tied for the third-most in the country. 

Proch started the season by icing a 3-1 victory over no. 20 FIU. Later that weekend, Proch scored two more goals against Vermont—including one in overtime—to secure the 3-2 win and clinch Duke’s third consecutive John Rennie Nike Invitational championship. And finally, Proch scored two more goals in an easy 4-1 win over San Diego. Amazingly, Proch is responsible for half of all the goals the Blue Devils have scored. His efforts have led to an offense that has averaged an astounding 3.33 goals per game.

It’s highly unlikely that Proch will continue to score 1.67 goals per game going forward, as that is an absurd pace. And although this is a very small sample size, Proch’s strong start to the season is just one of many encouraging signs. With a roster that boasts a strong mix of depth, talent, and experience, this team could legitimately make a run for its first national title since John Kerr led Duke to this glory as a player in 1986.