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Duke men's soccer looks to continue momentum against formidable Clemson squad

Duke goalie Will Pulisic will have his hands full against the Tigers.
Duke goalie Will Pulisic will have his hands full against the Tigers.

Following their comfortable win against N.C. State, the Blue Devils will look to continue their momentum against one of the top teams in the ACC.

Duke heads to Clemson, S.C., to take on a red-hot Clemson squad Friday at 8 p.m. at Historic Riggs Field. The Tigers are coming off of a huge win against No. 1 Wake Forest and will likely prove to be the Blue Devils’ toughest challenge yet.

“We are getting better, and it will be a really good test to see how we will do in a really difficult place to play,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “There are going to be approximately 1,000 fans at the game, so it is going to be a little bit different of an atmosphere than we are used to.”

In their win against the Wolfpack, the Blue Devils (2-2, 2-1 in the ACC) were held scoreless in the first half but amped their offense up over the final 45 minutes, scoring three goals en route to a 3-1 victory. Impressive scores from freshman Lewis McGarvey, graduate student Jack Doran and senior Daniel Wright displayed an improving Duke offense that looks to stay in strong form against Clemson.

“Every day we seem to step it up a level and learn from our mistakes to continue to improve,” Kerr said. “What has excited me coming off this game against N.C. State is our speed of play on offense. We have picked up the awareness and are getting into the opponent’s essential third very quickly.” 

Meanwhile, Clemson (3-1, 1-1) boasts one of the top offenses in the conference. Led by current senior Kimarni Smith and current junior Grayson Barber, the Tigers scored 12 more goals than any other team in ACC play last season and rank third in the conference in scoring average so far in 2020.

“They have two star strikers. Kimarni Smith, who is very athletic, can run and shoot. Another guy is Grayson Barber, who is feisty and is relentless,” Kerr said. “The combination is a handful. And they both work hard on defense.”

Overall, Duke has shown promise in recent games, but there is still room to grow, especially if the Blue Devils want to compete against a top-tier team like Clemson.

“We have to continue to grow in the area of the final third to get more solutions to our approaches into the other team’s defense,” Kerr said. “We scored on three set pieces against N.C. State which is really exciting, and we will continue to work on them in practice. In the run of play we have to get better at understanding each other and taking more initiative in front of the goal.”

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