It’s been over a week now since the Duke football team won against then-No. 9 Clemson in an epic upset — and blow-out — win. Since then, football has become a very popular topic of conversation amongst students, and with reason. It’s not every year that students storm the field, especially after the first game of the season. Despite the Blue Devils’ success so far, I stand here to say that students should be doing less talking about the football team and more about the “other” football team, or, as most people call it, Duke’s men's soccer team.
Sure, it's been well over 30 years since the men’s soccer team won the Blue Devils’ only national championship back in 1986. To put that into perspective, that was back when now-head coach John Kerr played as captain of the team. Ever since, the program has gone through tough losses in crucial games during disappointing yet promising seasons. Before coming to any conclusions, however, one should first consider how Duke has been performing recently.
Last year, the Blue Devils lost a total of just two games out of 19, finishing with an impressive 13-2-4 record. Even more promising was the fact that the team finished the regular season undefeated for the first time since 1999. Sure, Duke has lost players, notably goalkeeper Eliot Hamill and midfielder Peter Stroud, but it has also added players. Amongst these is freshman Ulfur Bjornsson, who earned National Team of the Week honors Sept. 12 after scoring two goals and providing an assist. This gives a very good impression of Duke’s new starting forward.
Not only are veteran players like Nick Pariano — also named to the National Team of the Week Aug. 29 — and Forster Ajago playing at a consistently high level, but the team itself has not lost a game in almost a month. This could be an early indicator of the beginning of yet another win streak for the Blue Devils. Even if things go awry and the team drops a few more during the regular season, there is still no good reason to believe that it can’t advance in the national tournament this year.
A characteristic of soccer is that the final score provides poor defining standards of how a game actually went, even though most people only care about how it ended. In this case, looking at the important games the team lost and tied both this season and last should give students even more incentive to feel excited about the team this year.
Take, for example, No. 8 Duke’s only tie this season against Wofford. Although both teams scored two goals, the Blue Devils clearly dominated the attack. They had more than four times as many shots than the Terriers for the entire game — 18 to Wofford’s four. Even when Duke lost 3-2 last year in the NCAA tournament against Creighton, statistics show that the Blue Devils dominated the game. For one, they had 22 corner kicks, the most in a game since Sept. 5, 2017, compared to only three taken by the Blue Jays. In addition, Duke had 19 total shots to Creighton’s eight. It is true that these statistics cannot undo what happened during the game, but they do show just how dominant the team usually is against its opponents.
Recently, there has been a lot of noise surrounding football. This might finally be the season the Blue Devils manage to win the ACC, but the odds for the men’s soccer team to win are higher, considering the team’s success last year and its consistency in recent years. Although the season seems to be going in the right direction for the football team this year, don’t be surprised if the “other” football team ends up succeeding more in the long run.
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