The crossbar stole the spotlight and defended its home field at Koskinen Stadium against both teams Tuesday night.
In what was supposed to be a mid-week breather in between intense ACC action, resilient Wright State dragged 18th-ranked Duke into a frustrating 110-minute marathon which ended in the Blue Devils’ first draw of the season. The Blue Devils controlled the pace for the first 60 minutes, but fell back into occasional dysfunction in the rest of the game.
“We got really loose with our possessions. We got loose with our defending,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “They stepped it up. They sensed a little bit of opportunity to seize the moment and thankfully for us that they didn’t put one of those three or four opportunities away.”
In the first overtime, Wright State (5-3-1) had two great game-winning opportunities. Senior midfielder Deri Corfe's long-range attempt from 30 yards went just above Blue Devil goalkeeper Will Pulisic’s reach, only to be stopped by the crossbar. In less than a minute, another Raider launched a curling ball that struck the left post and bounced back into Pulisic’s hands.
Wright State wasn’t the only team stopped by the goalposts. In the 50th minute, Duke midfielder Daniele Proch flicked a through pass that led junior Stephen O’Connell into a perfect opening on the left side of the box. O’Connell’s shot beat Raider goalie Joel Sundell but was rejected by the right post.
In the closing minutes of the second half, Proch was left all by himself 12 yards away from the goal when a Max Moser crossing landed on his feet. He faked a shot and quickly followed with a left-foot strike. Once again, the same post had no problem taking care of Duke’s leading scorer.
Unlike the previous three games in which Duke (5-3-1) conceded early goals, the Blue Devils started off the night with poise and efficiency.
13 minutes into the first half, a typical Sergi Nus incision from the defensive third bypassed the entire midfield and found Proch within attacking distance. Proch then pulled out a scissors move that left one Raider defender disoriented before delegating the possession to junior Daniel Wright on the left wing. The junior patiently examined the crowded box and accurately serviced Proch at the far end to give Duke an early lead.
This was Wright’s third straight appearance in Duke’s starting lineup. Last Friday he scored the opening goal for the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. The versatile Wixom, Mich., native also made huge contributions on defense in both games with his inexhaustible movements across the entire field.
“I felt like I’ve been playing very well. I’m feeling more comfortable playing a bit of a new position,” Wright said. “[The defensive aggressiveness] is ingrained in our team. Whether you are a forward, a midfielder or a defender, you gotta get back behind the ball. It’s one thing I pride myself on, just defending and doing work on both sides of the field.”
The optimism about a possible two-game winning streak was short-lived. In a hectic five-minute stretch during the second half, both teams became reckless with the ball and traded quick punches.
In the 62nd minute, Raider midfielder Jackson Dietrich was miraculously left unattended in a box filled with six Blue Devils. He slotted the shot into the right corner of the goal to tie the game. Moments after the kickoff, Blue Devil midfielder Kristofer Gardarsson dispatched a perfect freekick that nailed the top right corner off the crossbar to retake the lead.
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Wright State followed up with a Corfe freekick from almost the same spot on Duke’s end that completely caught Pulisic off guard due to a deflection. The Blue Devils had one more chance when the referee gave another freekick at the top of the box. This time Gardarsson didn’t have the same magic and the shot went awry.
Neither of the teams could score again as Duke’s subpar services failed to create any threats. A Wright corner flew out of the end line before entering the field; a Colby Agu crossing went directly to the spectators instead of the box. Even Duke’s best passer Max Moser seemed to have the wrong boots on.
“[The crossing] needs work, obviously. We got ourselves in great positions, and we have numbers in the box. We just need the service to be there and we should be able to capitalize,” Coach Kerr remarked. “The service wasn’t as good as it normally is. And we paid the price for it.”
The Blue Devils will play at home again Friday against ACC opponent Syracuse. Duke will need to play with more focus in order to come away with a victory.