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Duke men's soccer hopes to fix offensive woes in rematch against N.C. State

Duke has struggled to generate scoring opportunities to begin the season.
Duke has struggled to generate scoring opportunities to begin the season.

After a tough shutout loss to rival North Carolina, Duke will look to get its season jumpstarted against another in-state foe.

The Blue Devils will take the field again Friday at 8 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium in a rematch against a struggling N.C. State team. The Wolfpack will enter the contest coming off two straight losses—a 1-0 double-overtime defeat to Duke and a 4-1 beatdown at the hands of No. 1 Wake Forest.

“I think [seeing N.C. State a second time] is a good help because we get to analyze that game, and then they just played Wake Forest on Saturday night so we get to analyze that, too,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “And now we know a bit more of what to expect than we did in the first game…. We’re going to have a better game plan to exploit some of N.C. State’s weakness and capitalize on our decent play going forward.”

In their previous encounter, the Blue Devils and Wolfpack went head-to-head for 109 minutes before freshman Nick Pariano knocked in the game-winner with less than a minute remaining. The victory gave Duke (1-2, 1-1 in the ACC) its first win of the season, but illuminated some problems surrounding the team’s ability to score. 

Those issues were highlighted again in the Blue Devils’ next match against the Tar Heels, in which Duke was held scoreless for the full 90 minutes while trailing in 87 of those minutes. Through three games, the Blue Devils are getting outscored 3-6.

“We were disappointed not to capitalize on more chances against both N.C. State and UNC because we had some good offensive play,” Kerr said. “We’re going to shift a couple things around for our game on Friday and move a couple players around, so hopefully that’ll do the trick.” 

An important piece of Duke’s adjusted game plan will likely be sophomore forward Scotty Taylor. The New Jersey native impressed as a freshman last year—even scoring the game-winning goal in an upset of North Carolina—but has been quiet to begin the 2020 season, with no goals and only one shot on goal through three games.

“[Taylor] caused a lot of problems against UNC and N.C. State, and he’s a talented player and hasn’t really gotten off the mark yet,” Kerr said. “So I’m hoping that with more playing time, that he has the chance to open up his scoring count.” 

The Wolfpack (0-2, 0-2) have their own offensive issues as well. In addition to their one total goal in two regular-season matches, they were shut out in their lone exhibition against North Carolina.

With the ACC’s unusual schedule this year, a win Friday could bump Duke into the No. 1 spot of the conference’s South Region. But as of right now, Kerr is just focused on preparing his team for the game at hand.

“Of the six goals we let up in the three games, four of them have been on set pieces. So we’ve been working on that this week and we’ll continue to work on that before our game on Friday,” Kerr said. “It’s a little bit of a pet peeve of ours that we’ve been a little sloppy on the marking and we’re hoping to take care of that and be tighter when Friday comes.”

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