Conference expansion has only made ACC play all the more difficult this season, as Duke is still searching for its elusive first conference win after coming up short against Syracuse.
Traveling to Durham for the first time since joining the ACC, the Orange proved a formidable new conference opponent for the Blue Devils, grinding out a 2-1 comeback win against Duke Friday night at Koskinen Stadium.
“[The Orange] really got after it tonight,” Kerr said. “They worked us and they were very good on set pieces, corner kicks in particular. They have a good team.”
Syracuse (5-2-0, 1-2-0 in the ACC) racked up the opportunities early on but failed to score on seven corners in the first half.
Trailing 1-0 to Duke (3-2-2, 0-2-1) midway through the second half, the Orange finally managed to translate their vigorous attack into a goal when forward Emil Ekblom converted on a 15-yard strike to the near post in the 61st minute.
Syracuse did not stop there, adding another just 15 minutes later. Fellow forward Chris Nanco found himself in a 1-on-1 with Duke goalkeeper Alex Long, who was able to get a hand on it but not enough to deny Syracuse of what turned out to be the winning goal.
“That crucial second goal has been missing from our play,” Kerr said. “If we let teams hang around long enough they are going to punish us.”
Duke’s lone bright spot came just seconds into the second half when breakout freshman Brody Huitema awoke a sleeping Blue Devil offense that had mustered just three first-half shots with his third goal the last two games. Huitema was able to break free right off the kickoff and found the back of the net after a feed from teammate Luis Rendon.
After going goalless in his first five contests, the Canadian forward has been on fire as of late, posting what turned out to be his team’s only goal just three nights after burying Davidson in overtime.
“He’s a threat,” Kerr said. “He’s been a threat in the first five games as well—it just did not get on the score sheet.”
Huitema’s success was not enough to earn a victory for the Blue Devils, who saw their brief second-half lead slip away before the final whistle. The freshman stated he believes his team is suffering from a lack of focus, which keeps the team from finishing games off strong.
“I think the biggest thing would be just concentration. I think that is all it is,” Huitema said. “We just lacked the concentration on those two goals, and all it takes is those two moments to ruin a game for you.”
Note: This article’s headline originally reflected that Duke’s conference record was 0-3. That has since been corrected.
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