For decades, critics have proclaimed that soccer will never catch on in America, claiming that it is too dull and low-scoring to ever attract a critical mass of support.
And while those people have been proven wrong, Friday night was the type of game they would point to as a perfect example of how soccer is a game in which nothing happens.
For the first 85 minutes of the 0-0 double-overtime draw between Duke and No. 23 North Carolina State at Koskinen Stadium Friday, basically nothing did happen. There was a late flurry of activity with both teams hitting the crossbar, but ultimately neither was able to find the back of the net to seal a victory.
“When you lose two games in a row and don’t play well defensively, you have to address it,” Blue Devils head coach John Kerr said. “I thought we did a good job of not allowing them really good opportunities to go forward.”
The first half was a slog for long stretches as the Wolfpack dominated possession, but were unable to do anything productive with it, as the Blue Devils were content to sit in a deep block and clear the ball whenever they came under pressure.
That meant spectators were treated to the sight of North Carolina State’s defenders passing the ball back and forth between them, and the team became frustrated with their inability to break down Duke’s compact defense.
The Blue Devils (6-5-2, 2-3-1 in the ACC) were set up to counterattack and almost stole a goal early in the second half when a Daniele Proch driving run down the sidelines ended with a centering pass that found its way to a wide-open Colby Agu 10 yards from net. The senior blasted the shot high though, leaving the game scoreless.
“We did a better job in the second half of being a little tighter on their guys,” Kerr said. “That allowed us to get more pressure on their back line.”
The game finally exploded into life in the last five minutes of regulation, as the boisterous crowd was finally able to get into the game. Proch, who was consistently Duke’s most dangerous attacker all game, won a free kick about 25 yards out after bringing down a long ball. He smashed the kick off the crossbar with the goalie rooted to the spot. The rebound bounced to Max Moser in front of goal, but the senior could not steer it on target.
“We knew that we wanted to win this game and we did everything in our power to create the opportunities to do that,” Kerr said. “I’m disappointed for our guys because they worked really, really hard to create opportunities especially coming off a 90-minute game on Thursday night.”
The Wolfpack (7-3-3, 3-2-1) came charging right back and hit the crossbar themselves when a cross from Ivy Brisma floated over Duke goalkeeper Will Pulisic and bounced down off the crossbar to a wide-open Pepe Garcia, who blasted a shot past a sprawling Pulisic, but it went wide.
Duke had the better of the chances in the overtime periods including an opportunity for Agu that bounced past the goalie, but was cleared off the line before it could give the Blue Devils the victory.
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Ultimately, the referee blew the whistle to give both teams a point in a game that Duke was determined not to lose.
“We needed a performance tonight,” Kerr said. “And as a result, we would prefer the win, but not getting beaten was our number one priority.”
The Blue Devils have a short break until their next game Tuesday, at home against High Point, when they will try to get their first win in four games.