DURHAM, N.C.—Duke used a pair of first-half goals to capture its 11th win of the 2017 season tonight, besting Delaware 2-1 in the final regular season non-conference game of the season. Daniel Wright and Daniele Proch had the goals for the 18th-ranked Blue Devils.
Duke improves to 11-3-2 overall and 8-2-1 at home this season, while Delaware falls to 5-6-4 overall. The 11 wins are the most by a Duke team since the 2011 team went 11-8-3 and are three shy of matching the 14 victories in 2009.
“We wanted to get the win tonight first and foremost,” said head coach John Kerr. “We wanted to make sure we finished strong here at Koskinen in the non-conference, which we did. We’re just trying to approach the game and get the W every time.”
The Blue Devils got to work quickly against the Blue Hens. Duke attacked from the opening whistle and created looks at goal in the opening minute. Wright was the beneficiary just 1:51 into the game as senior Brian White’s ball across the face of the goal skipped all the way to the far post for Wright. The rookie striker collected and from a difficult angle took a half chance that deflected off of a Delaware defender and past Todd Morton for the 1-0 Duke advantage.
“I was hoping [scoring early] would manufacture into more goals, but we took our time doing that and allowed them into the game unfortunately,” Kerr said.
Duke, looking to put the game away early, continued to find open space down the sides, but wasn’t able to finish any of the crosses.
Momentum took a shift in the direction of the Blue Hens in the 22nd minute when a penalty was whistled against the Blue Devils inside the 18-yard box. Thibault Philippe stepped up to the 12-yard spot and buried his shot low to the right corner. Pulisic was unable to make his second penalty kick save as he guessed the opposite direction.
A resilient team all season when giving up goals, Duke answered right back 3:06 later on a finish from Proch. Carter Manley, Duke’s assist leader with five, played a great ball to White in the box. The senior captain’s shot again was blocked by a defender and sailed to Proch who was following the play and headed it home from the doorstep for his fifth tally of the year and ultimately a 2-1 lead at the break.
“We’ve done really well this season once we’ve gotten scored on,” Kerr said. “The reaction has been really good. Either we’ve gotten mad or frustrated and decided we can turn it up a notch. That was a real positive that we could bounce back so quickly.”
The Blue Devils struggled to find a rhythm in the second half, managing just three shots after posting 11 in the opening 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Delaware created some havoc for Duke in its defensive end. However, Duke’s defensive unit did well to stand up and post a shutout in the final 45 minutes.
Pulisic came up with his biggest save of the night early in the half after a bad giveaway by Duke gave Delaware a great opportunity inside the penalty box. Excellent in coming off his line, Pulisic denied the Blue Hens for his one, albeit crucial, save of the half. He finished the night with three stops.
Duke held a 14-7 advantage in shots overall and a 10-5 edge in corner kicks. Morton posted four saves in the loss.
The Blue Devils host No. 13 Virginia in the regular season finale Friday night at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.