DURHAM, N.C.—Duke sophomore goalkeeper Will Pulisic stopped two penalty kicks and converted his own with ease to lead the eighth-ranked Blue Devils to the ACC Championship semifinals with a 4-3 shootout victory over Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke (10-5-2) advances to the semifinals to play No. 2 seed and fourth-ranked North Carolina Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. The game will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. It is the Blue Devils’ first appearance in the ACC semifinals since 2011, which also is the last time Duke was seeded third.
“We played well, but were up against a team that was very hungry and motivated and had nothing to lose and they brought their best game forward and really challenged us” said head coach John Kerr. “We had some good movements at times, but the finished article we were just a little off and weren’t able to convert. Otherwise I thought we did a really solid job defensively.”
The game ended in a scoreless draw after 110 minutes, during which the Pittsburgh (8-10-1) hit the crossbar three times and Duke nearly scored in the final seconds of both regulation and the second overtime. Overall for the game, the two teams combined for 31 shots, 10 of which came on frame. The Blue Devils played the final 48:54 of the game with 10 players due to a red card in the second half.
The penalty kick shootout was rife with tension as usual as the two teams lined up arm-in-arm at midfield and watched helplessly as their teammates and goalkeepers battled it out 12-yards apart. Pittsburgh took the first shot and converted and Duke’s Daniele Proch matched. The teams traded makes over the next two shooters to leave it 3-3.
That’s when Pulisic stepped up and made his first stop. With all the momentum and energy flowing in his favor, the second-year goalie calmly stepped up to the spot himself and buried his shot. He followed that up with another diving stop to his right to send his teammates rushing towards the box in victory.
The game was not without excitement despite the 0-0 line on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh started strong and was giving the Blue Devils fits in the early going. The Panthers hit the crossbar twice within seconds on a corner kick and also forced Pulisic to dive on a ball as it was cross the goal line.
Duke struggled at times in the early going to get into the game. Unable to keep possession as Pitt forced the Blue Devils to play long, Duke stayed steady and eventually started to play well and move the ball, but couldn’t get anything going offensively.
The second half was much of the same for both teams. Duke went down a man in the 62nd minute on a second caution, but the Blue Devils were unfazed and put together solid moments of play. Defensively, Duke was outstanding with Aedan Stanley and Matthias Frick regularly making quality tackles in and around the box to help secure the fifth clean sheet of the season.
The most excitement of the game came at the end of regulation as Proch nearly got on the end of a cross from the right side with 10 seconds left. That happened against for the Blue Devils at the end of the 110 minutes with Issa Rayyan breaking through with time winding down before running out of space and time and forcing the shootout.
Pittsburgh also hit the crossbar in overtime as the Panthers came out strong in the first overtime period. The had seven corner kicks in the second half, but set pieces were neither teams forte on the afternoon with 16 combined corner kicks and various other fouls with 30 yards of goal.
Duke held an 18-13 edge in shots, while Pitt had the 10-6 advantage in corner kicks. Pulisic finished with four saves during the run of play and Johan Penaranda making six, including a fingertip stop to deny Rayyan his fifth goal of the year.