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'The journey has been great': Duke men's soccer's seniors reflect on their careers

<p>Duke's seniors will have many memories from their time together at Koskinen Stadium.</p>

Duke's seniors will have many memories from their time together at Koskinen Stadium.

Friday night, Duke's seniors played on the Koskinen Stadium grass for the last time. 

In front the warm gaze of family members and devout Blue Devil fans, Max Moser and Daniele Proch produced the perfect combo once again for a goal, but as the final whistle blew and the stands emptied, Koskinen was left dispirited and deprived.  

The seniors worked hard night in and night out, but nothing could save Duke from a disappointing season, with the Blue Devils sitting below .500 and a near lock to miss the NCAA tournament. Of the 15 players that registered more than 500 minutes on the field, seven of them are playing their final year of college soccer. Together, the seniors produced 70 percent of Duke’s goals. 

“It’s a great core of seniors for sure,” Kerr commented. “They showed an incredible amount of leadership. They made a major impact on our team and helped the team make the playoffs the past two years. I’m excited about them in the future. I don’t know if they are all going to play pro soccer, but whatever endeavor they decide to be, we are behind them 100 percent and they meant a lot to our program.” 

The Chronicle surveyed these veterans as they bid farewell to Duke. 

Daniele Proch, Midfielder

Duke career stats: 27 goals, 11 assists, 10 game-winning goals

Favorite Duke soccer memory: 3-2 win against Notre Dame in 2018 (scored the game-winner)

Proch is the heartbeat of this team, leading the Blue Devils in scoring the last two seasons. The Italian garnered All-America honors and was a Hermann Trophy semifinalist last season. 

“The journey has been great,” Proch said. “I hope I will not close this chapter yet because I want to do more this season. It’s tough at the position that we are in right now.” 

The striker registered his final goal at Koskinen Friday night, ending a four-game scoring drought in a bittersweet farewell.

Brandon Williamson, Midfielder 

Duke career stats: 4 goals, 7 assists 

Favorite Duke soccer memory: 2-1 win against Notre Dame in 2016 (scored two goals)

Brandon Williamson is an authentic box-to-box midfielder, giving his all for the entire 120 yards. The team captain can rush to the attacking third and take care of goal-scoring opportunities as well as building a solid wall against the opposing team in front of the box. His luxurious hair symbolized the energy he brings to the team every night. 

“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been a big part of this team,” Williamson said. “I feel like I had such a great time here, progressed so much, doing [it] with the greatest guys that have made me better. I didn’t get here by myself. It was coaches and everybody that made me better. It was a great run. I just wish it did not have to end.”

Max Moser, Defender/Midfielder

Duke career stats: 5 goals, 19 assists 

Favorite Duke soccer memory: Beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2019

Max Moser has been an indispensable offensive weapon for the Blue Devils since the first minute he set foot on Duke's campus four years ago. Time after time, Moser reminds people of the beauty of soccer with his impeccable right-foot curling ball. 

This season, Moser mostly contributed from the bench as an injury limited him. Disappointment and grief were clear in Moser's face after his final home game, as he stood silent and motionless on his favorite right-wing spot for an extended period. 

“I think coming to Duke was the best decision I have ever made in my life,” Moser said.

Suniel Veerakone, Midfielder

Duke career stats: 5 goals, 8 assists 

Favorite Duke soccer memory: 2018 summer team trip to Argentina and Uruguay

Suniel Veerakone, a former ACC All-freshman, made a strong comeback this season after fighting injuries over the past two years.

“My family’s been through it with me,” Veerakone said. “And the boys as well. College is a unique time when everybody on the team is around the same age and studying the same thing. I think it’s a good thing to experience, being part of the team with the guys your age and building a special bond.”

Anchoring the midfield with fellow senior Brandon Williamson this year, Veerakone is the link between the front line and the back third. You might not see him pulling out fancy moves, but his efficient passes and incessant movements are central to the function of the team. The 5-foot-8, 135-pound midfielder might appear small on the field, but he’s as tough and gritty as anyone, creating threats for the Blue Devils while putting himself in dangerous positions.

Colby Agu, Forward

Duke career stats: 4 goals, 1 assist

Favorite Duke soccer memory: beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 2019

There are players like Moser who are ready to go day one, but there are also the later bloomers who need time to realize their potential. Colby Agu is definitely one of the latter types, assuming a starting role in his final year after playing sparingly during his first three seasons. 

“I would summarize my career as a learning experience,” Agu said. “I got a lot more playing time this year and I think I have done a good job applying what I learned on the field.” 

The Cary, N.C., native values the limited touches he gets on the pitch, with a shot-on-goal percentage of .500. With his scores against CSU Bakersfield, Syracuse and Denver, he is now the only Blue Devil besides Proch to have notched at least three goals this season.

Hassan Pinto, Defender

Duke career stats: 1 goal

Favorite Duke soccer memory: beating Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019

Hassan Pinto, a Durham native, came home for his final year of eligibility after finishing his undergraduate studies at Elon.  

“It’s awesome to play in my hometown,” Pinto said. “I remembered coming to games as a kid. Going to a Duke soccer game with my team and watching those guys play was a thing every Friday night. And to be one of those guys now, it comes full circle. It’s pretty cool.” 

The current Blue Devil, however, was born and bred a North Carolina fan. His father was a standout of the Tar Heel soccer team during the early 1990s, while his sister is a star on the North Carolina women’s soccer squad now. 

Regardless of his family allegiance, Pinto proved he belongs at Duke. After notching his first and only college goal in his debut against Furman, he never stepped off the pitch for the remainder of the season.

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