DURHAM, N.C.—Duke rookie Issa Rayyan scored in the 65th minute and the Blue Devils played lockdown defense to advance past Pacific 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship tonight at Koskinen Stadium. Sixth-seeded Duke will face Maryland in the round of 16, Saturday, Nov. 24.
Rayyan, the ACC Rookie of the Year, scored his sixth goal of the year and fifth in the past six games to lead Duke (11-6-2) to its 32nd NCAA Tournament victory and into the round of 16 for the second consecutive season. Meanwhile, in goal, sophomore keeper Will Pulisic posted his sixth shutout of the year with three saves.
“It was a tough game for us,” said head coach John Kerr. “Fair play to Pacific they really came to play and they gave us all we could handle.”
The Blue Devils struggled a bit offensively in the opening 45 minutes. Seemingly a little off balance, Duke was never really able to get into a rhythm on the ball and create dangerous opportunities. Junior Daniele Proch got in behind the defense once, but was whistled offside. The only other look at goal came when the Pacific (12-5-2) goalie Ethan Bandre pushed away a cross, but the Blue Devils weren’t able to get to the loose ball.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm [in the first half],” Kerr said. “They did a good job defensively pressing us and we had to make some adjustments at halftime to figure out how to press them and get higher up on the field. And I thought in the second half we did a much better job of pressing them and getting into our offense.”
The Tigers had the better opportunities at goal in the first half with one shot deflecting off the post, but overall Duke did well to handle any pressure.
Duke came out in the second half on its front foot and immediately put pressure on the Tigers. The Blue Devils pressured higher from the back and consistently were able to force turnovers, which in turn resulted in looks at goal.
That first chance came only three minutes into the period as Daniel Wright fired a shot that was blocked. The loose ball fell to the feet of rookie Ian Murphy – only to be denied by a fabulous save from Bandre.
The Blue Devils continued to press and their resolve paid off in the 65th minute when Rayyan was able to finish a loose ball after Proch had his shot blocked by Bandre. The rookie speedster calmly kept the ball low and slipped it past into the left corner for the 1-0 lead.
Forced to push the pace, Pacific worked diligently in getting the equalizer. The Tigers had two golden opportunities as a volley on the back post on a free kick went right to Pulisic and a header from Jimenez sailed just over the bar to keep Duke’s clean sheet alive. In the end, it was Duke’s defense winning the overall battle and ending the Tigers’ season and sending the Blue Devils into the next round.
Duke improves to 32-34-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament play and will host No. 11 seed Maryland in the round of 16. The Terrapins defeated NC State 2-0. Kickoff for that game will be Saturday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium. The winner advances to the quarterfinals to play the winner between No. 3 Kentucky and Lipscomb.