In an exciting Friday night match in Koskinen Stadium, No. 4 Duke continued its hot streak against No.14 Louisville.
After freshman forward Shakur Mohammed scored first off a counter attack and an assist from sophomore Peter Stroud in the 22nd minute, the Blue Devils held the lead for the rest of the game after a stellar defensive performance, eventually coming away with a 3-1 victory.
“Considering our season so far and understanding how tough this team was, Louisville, they were coming in [off] three wins in a row and they have some real serious players and dangerous players going forward, so I'm really really happy overall," Duke head coach John Kerr said. "There's moments in the game where we could have done better at times, and we wrote our luck at times as well. But overall, I thought we did a great job and [was] really pleased for the guys.”
Sophomore forward Thorleifur Ulfarsson scored two goals—a penalty goal in the 33rd minute and a chip shot towards the top of the net nearly three minutes before the end of the game—to secure the two-goal margin of victory for the Blue Devils (8-1-0, 4-0-0 in the ACC). Senior goalkeeper Eliot Hamil had a strong performance, with two saves and only one goal allowed as he continues to anchor Duke’s defense, which has allowed only two goals this season.
Duke faced a difficult defensive test against Louisville (7-3-0, 3-1-0 in the ACC), which is currently in a tie for third in total goals scored. The Cardinals’ 4-3-3 formation pressured the Blue Devil defense, but Duke responded well by exploiting that aggressive strategy.
“It was interesting what their tactics were," Kerr said. "They push their outside blocks really really high and try to engage us in and we didn't bite; we kept our shape defensively. And we waited for our moments and then we really punished them a number of times on the counter-attack when they left themselves exposed.”
"I think we've been focusing on defense a lot the past couple games, we've obviously kept clean sheets and whereas we focus so much on defense. A lot of is also 'Can we hurt the other team,' and that's been a struggle for us. But ever since Thor's been back and we've gotten our rhythm, it's so much easier to catch up on the break,” Stroud said on Louisville's counter-attack. “Shaq and Thor, they created problems the whole game and the thing is get the ball to them and let them do their thing and they did that the whole night and it helped us massively.”
After no side gained a clear advantage during the first 20 minutes of the game, Duke took the momentum after the goals from Mohammed and Ulfarsson. Although it appeared Louisville might tie the game after shifting the momentum with Pedro Fonseca’s 39th-minute goal and several other scoring opportunities, Duke’s defense continued its strong effort and the Blue Devils continued to attack. This offensive strategy eventually led to Ulfarsson’s late goal, which put the game out of the Cardinals’ reach.
The game was quite physical, with 27 fouls called, five yellow cards on each side, and a red card on Louisville goalkeeper Detre Bell in the 72nd minute. The crowd seemed to be very disappointed with the amount of cards called, with frequent loud criticisms throughout the second half. Both teams will have to be aware of rising yellow card counts as they continue to progress through the season.
Duke is pleased with how well its younger players are developing, especially Mohammed, with Stroud saying, “They've been really good. All of them have been amazing. And Shaq recently has really stepped up creating chances all the time, causing havoc and [on the assist to Mohammed] I just picked my head up and I saw him and I saw their right back was kind of committing a bit and [the idea] just slipped into [my] mind and then Shaq did the rest, cutting and finishing it really well.”
The team is excited about the win and the rest of the season, as Kerr optimistically looks forward to the upcoming schedule, saying, “It helps us build confidence and each game and each training session we're getting to know each other even more, and the progression this team has made from the beginning of last year until now is phenomenal and I'm really delighted on their upward trend and I really like the direction we're going. We still have a lot of things to correct and improve on but I really like the way our group is going.”
Next for the Blue Devils is a 7 p.m. home matchup against Elon this Tuesday.
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