DURHAM, N.C.—Tenth-ranked Duke scored twice in a four-minute span in the second half to emerge with a 3-1 season-opening victory over No. 20 FIU in men’s soccer action Friday evening. The Blue Devils host Vermont Sunday to cap the 2018 John Rennie Nike Invitational.
Sophomore outside back Matthias Frick provided the game winner, while junior forward Daniele Proch iced the victory with a third tally. Senior captain Ciaran McKenna was the first to score, netting a first-half penalty kick.
Duke (1-0-0) came out strong and attack-minded right away. Graduate student transfer Kevin Feucht had the first official shot for the Blue Devils in 2018 and Proch had his fabulous one-on-one chance negated to an offside call, which Duke had six in the game.
Unable to connect in the final third in the opening 25 minutes, the Blue Devils were buoyed by players coming off the bench. Duke continued to attack and in the 43rd minute it was junior midfielder Suniel Veerakone drawing a foul inside the penalty box.
McKenna, Duke’s outside right back on the night, stepped up and calmly buried his shot to give the Blue Devils the lead heading into halftime, 1-0. Duke held a 4-2 advantage in shots in the first half and controlled much of the run of play.
The Panthers stepped up their play in the second half and started to have the better of action. Duke did well defensively to absorb FIU’s pressure, including two great reaction stops from sophomore goalkeeper Will Pulisic. However, moments after those saves, the Panthers were able to capitalize on a set piece in the 53rd minute to equalize. Nick O’Callaghan, on the back post, headed in a free kick from just outside the penalty box on the endline.
Duke remained composed and continued to fight its way back into the game. And in the 64th minute for the second time, Duke was awarded a penalty kick after Max Moser drew a foul inside the 18-yard box. This time it was Feucht stepping up to take the shot from the spot. The Germany native missed the frame just barely to keep the score even 1-1.
Rookie midfielder Issa Rayyan, who came on for Moser in the 64th minute, proved to be the spark the Blue Devils needed in the second half as he wreaked havoc down the right side. He was dynamic and drew yet another penalty kick for the Blue Devils in the 74th minute, which Daniele Proch was unable to convert.
Despite missing two penalty kicks, the Blue Devils remained in the game and capitalized on being up a man after a red card was issued to the Panthers. The set piece struck again for Duke in the 77th minute with Frick heading home perfectly a Seth Kuhn corner kick at the back post.
“It’s a credit to our team [to stay in the game] and a credit to the two guys. They didn’t slump and put their heads down. They just got back up and got on with it and were very influential in the end of the game in creating the goals and other chances. I’m happy we just didn’t duck under the covers.”
Then 3:28 later, Proch received a long service from Brandon Williamson in the midfield and calmly slotted the ball past the near post to ice the victory for the Blue Devils.
Overall, Duke edged the panthers 14-13 in shots. Pulisic finished with five saves, while Hugo Faroux had three.
The Blue Devils host Vermont, Aug. 26 at 2:30 p.m. A win would give the Duke its third straight John Rennie Invitational title. The game can be viewed on ACC Network Extra.