364 Minutes Later: Irish score, earn 1st ACC victory of 2019 over Duke, 1-0
Aidan Thomas | Monday, October 14, 2019
The Notre Dame men’s soccer team put together a historic performance on Tuesday, posting eight goals en route to a shutout victory over Purdue Fort Wayne.
But while that performance was a nice breather from Notre Dame’s grueling ACC schedule, Jack Lynn’s breakthrough in the 65th minute of Friday’s conference duel with Duke proved far sweeter and far more significant, as the Irish earned a hard-fought victory over the Blue Devils for their first ACC victory of the season. Lynn’s goal broke a 364-minute scoreless drought in conference games for the Irish, as they improved to 1-4 in conference play and 7-4-1 overall.
The rain was pouring down on Alumni Stadium as the two teams kicked off Friday night, and the difficulty of the conditions was apparent from the first few seconds of the game, as Notre Dame sent a long ball down the right sideline off of kickoff, but the ball hit the wet grass and skidded past two streaking Notre Dame players and out of bounds.
Despite the slick playing surface, neither team played conservatively, as the first half devolved into a fast-paced match, both teams creating quality chances in the opening 45 minutes.
Irish freshman midfielder Michael Pellegrino drove a cross into the middle of the box just three minutes in, but graduate student captain and forward Ian Aschieris saw his effort blocked before it reached Blue Devils junior keeper Will Pulisic.
Minutes later, Duke junior striker Daniel Wright dribbled towards goal as the Blue Devils broke out on a 3-v-3 scoring opportunity, but excellent individual defending from senior Senan Farrelly halted the chance before it became any more dangerous.
Irish senior keeper Duncan Turnbull only needed to make one save all game, but he was still active in his box, including in the sixth minute, when he dove off his line to snare a hard cross by Duke senior defender Hassan Pinto. Despite the wet conditions, Turnbull held onto the ball, preventing any rebound opportunities.
Notre Dame dominated much of the next ten minutes, earning a free kick and a corner kick. Farrelly got his foot on the free kick, but he was unable to muster up too much power behind the shot, and Pulisic easily collected it.
With 35:16 left in the first half, Notre Dame appeared to have achieved their much-needed breakthrough, as Jack Lynn served in a cross to the far post, where junior midfielder Aiden McFadden redirected it into the back of the net with a well-timed header. However, the whistle blew, and a call that was never made clear by the referees negated the goal. Replays didn’t appear to show an Irish player slipping offsides or committing any obvious foul, and for the second straight home game, after a controversial penalty kick sunk the Irish against No. 1 Virginia, Notre Dame was victimized by the whistle as the game remained scoreless.
After Notre Dame kept up the pressure for a few minutes after their negated goal, Duke gained their footing and began applying pressure on the Irish back line. With just under 31 minutes to go, Wright wound up from about 15 yards out but saw his blast blocked by a defender. The ball trickled to the right, and Blue Devils senior midfielder Suniel Veerakone saw his opportunity and sent a rocket on target. Turnbull seemed to see the ball late, but he reacted well and made a stunning save, diving and punching the ball away with his right palm.
“That was great. That was a big boost for his confidence,” Notre Dame head coach Chad Riley said of the save. “He was really locked in and reacted very well and made a great save.”
Shortly after, Duke senior defender Max Moser saw a promising cross deflected out of danger, and dangerous senior Duke midfielder Daniele Proch would go on a strong run up the right sideline, touching the ball past a sliding Irish defender before dragging his shot just wide of the left post. For Proch, it was about his only quality chance of the night, as the Irish swarmed Duke’s main playmaker all night, giving him neither time or space on the ball. Proch entered the game as Duke’s leading goal scorer with eight goals, but his effort in the 23rd minute would be his only shot attempt of the game.
All in all, Notre Dame allowed just six shot attempts from the Blue Devils, with only one requiring a save from Turnbull.
Afterwards, Riley was extremely complimentary of his team’s performance, particularly neutralizing opposing playmakers.
“You always want to be good defensively, and I think we’ve been doing better,” he said. “You just need to be aware of a player like [Proch], and I think we did a good job and didn’t give him a lot of space. I think our defenders played fantastic tonight.”
From that point on, Duke created minimal chances offensively, with a Moser shot slipping wide being their only opportunity the rest of the half. They had Pulisic to thank for entering halftime scoreless, as the Duke keeper denied a left-footed volley from Lynn with a diving left-handed save.
The second half did not begin auspiciously for the Irish, as the Blue Devils created a strong chance in the first fifteen seconds. Moser collected a long ball off the kickoff, and his cross was blocked for a Duke corner kick. The ensuing kick was cleared without major issues, but it was still not the start the Irish wanted. However, after the first minute of play, Notre Dame largely dominated the second half.
Senior striker John Rea overran a well-played ball in the middle of the box from about twelve yards out and couldn’t convert the scoring opportunity.
Graduate student set piece specialist and captain Felicien Dumas had several opportunities with two corner kicks and a free kick, but Duke prevented any shots on target. The game settled down a little bit, and when Notre Dame finally struck, it came out of nowhere.
After struggling to convert strong chances for much of the game, sophomore defender Philip Quinton took a free kick from the midfield stripe and simply played a short pass to the other side of the pitch. The ensuing long ball was headed away by a Duke defender, and the chance seemed to be over. However, senior midfielder Jack Casey, playing his first full game back from injury, headed the ball back to the corner of the box, where it was collected by freshman defender Mohammad Abualnadi. Fending off multiple Duke defenders, Abualnadi pushed the ball to Lynn, who took a quick touch and curved his shot into the lower right corner, just beyond the reach of Pulisic. Exactly four weeks after Lynn scored in the 61st minute against Clemson, the sophomore forward let out an emphatic yell as the Irish broke through once more against a conference opponent.
The Irish, despite being up 1-0, continued to push hard against the Duke defenders, earning another corner kick and sending two more shots off frame. Meanwhile, as they sought to see out their victory, Notre Dame denied the Blue Devils any major chances.
Farrelly collected a cross and used an athletic bicycle kick to send the ball well away from danger. Duke got three more corners, but Notre Dame’s defense prevented any quality chances out of the set pieces.
With six minutes to play, Duke senior midfielder Brandon Williamson attempted a shot from distance, but his effort sailed well over the crossbar. With two and a half minutes left on the clock, Turnbull rose up and collected one more cross. The Irish largely stayed in possession from there to secure their 1-0 victory.
When the final whistle blew, the importance of the victory was easy to see, as in front of a large student section, several Irish players offered emphatic and emotional celebrations.
“I think it [winning our first ACC game] is really good,” Riley said. “Mathematically, we can’t win the regular season in the ACC, so now every one of these teams we play, the way we look at it, is a good team. They’re just good games that we really want to win.”
The Irish have four games remaining, including three conference matchups. They will be back in action on Friday, as they travel to Virginia Tech (6-3-2, 0-3-2).