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'Ace' Max Moser energizes Duke men's soccer against Ivy League opponents

Max Moser electrified the Blue Devils Sunday.
Max Moser electrified the Blue Devils Sunday.

Harvard is synonymous with academic excellence worldwide, but on Sunday, Max Moser's brilliance proved to be too much for the Crimson.

Moser—originally not expected to play due to a lingering injury—stepped onto the field in the 51st minute with the game tied and walked off 14 minutes later with two assists to his name and Duke coasting to a win.

In the second game of a busy and successful weekend, the Blue Devils beat Harvard 3-0 with a dominant second half performance thanks in large part to Moser’s influence. That came after a Friday night matchup against another Ivy League foe where No. 5 Duke blanked Princeton 4-0. Moser also made an appearance off the bench against Princeton and notched another assist to give him four for the season.

“[Max] has come off the bench like an ace for us the past two games,” Blue Devil head coach John Kerr said. “He’s a little banged up, so we didn’t want to risk him for too long. He knew what he had to do, he did it and we’re pleased.”

Before Moser entered the game, Duke (4-0-0) had been frustrated offensively trying to penetrate the bunkered-in Crimson defense. The Blue Devils outshot Harvard (0-2-0) 13-2 in the first half, but struggled to generate quality chances with many shots being blocked or being launched from distance and not troubling the goalkeeper.

That all changed with Moser taking up his customary spot on the right wing. The senior immediately earned a corner kick and swung a beautiful ball into the near post that was flicked in by Aedan Stanley and then buried into the side netting by Matthias Frick. 

“I saw that they were protecting the first post really well but leaving huge gaps in the middle of the box,” Moser said. “All you have to do is get it over the first guy and I tried to hit it over him, which is really easy because I know our guys will be making good runs.”

Just under 2 minutes later, Moser struck again with a perfect cross from the right wing. Senior Brandon Williamson beat a Harvard defender to a loose ball in the corner and passed it back to Moser, who hit a first-time pass that senior Daniele Proch met with an unstoppable volley past the goalie at the near post to give Duke a 2-0 lead.

Moser then took his curtain call and the Blue Devils dominated from there on out, finishing with a 27-3 shot advantage and keeper Will Pulisic’s goal never came under serious threat as he ended up with his third shutout of the season.

Duke padded its lead late in the game when Proch received a pass in the box and then drove between two defenders who collapsed on him and the ref immediately pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. Proch then stepped up and buried it in the bottom left corner, giving him two goals for the day and four for the weekend. 

The Blue Devils experimented with a new formation against the Crimson, as Frick stepped up into a defensive midfield role leaving Duke with just three at the back, but the defenders were rarely called into action as the Blue Devils were able to dominate possession with Frick being an imposing presence in midfield. 

Before coming back to Durham where he played in college, Kerr served as Harvard’s head coach for nine seasons, leading the Crimson to several NCAA tournament bids. 

“It’s weird, it’s been a couple times now,” Kerr said. “We played Duke a couple times when I was at Harvard and now have played Harvard a couple of times here. The good news is three out of the four times I’ve won, so I’ll take it.”

Duke’s schedule is about to get a lot harder this week, when No. 7 Virginia comes to Durham Thursday in a top 10 matchup to kick off ACC play. The Cavaliers have not been scored on yet this season and boast a victory over then-No.1 Maryland. 

“Virginia is off to a really hot start,” Kerr said. “They have scored a lot of goals and haven’t been given up one goal yet. It’s going to be a tight game and more of a boxing match rather than a one-sided affair.”  

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